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Pathways to mental health care in Kwazulu-Natal province South Africa.

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The understanding of the pathways that clients take prior to admission to a mental health institution, is a vital factor in planning to reduce delays in seeking treatment. Studying the pathways may also help in the identification of sources of delays in the receiving of care and suggest possible improvements. Although western medicine plays an important role in the control of disease, traditional medicine continues to play an important role in the health care of black African communities. They, therefore possess unique attitudes, values and beliefs, about health and illness, which integrally infiuence their health behaviour. This study aims to increase the understanding by health professionals of pathways to care taken by clients before they are admitted to a mental health institution, so as to enhance heath service planning. It also aims to determine the socio-cultural and economic factors, as well as satisfaction with different service providers. The sample in this study consisted of 15 clients, who were between the ages of ten and fifty-nine years. These clients were males and females who were admitted for the first time in a mental health institution (MHI) (TownHill Hospital, Pietermaritzburg). The interview questionnaire, was administered, by the researcher.This study has demonstrated that, Africans still believe in traditional and faith healers as their first port of call when they are mentally ill. Their help seeking behaviour is determined by their cultural beliefs and values. The study also demonstrated the high involvement of the South African Police Services (SAPS) in the pathway to mental health institution by intervening to protect family or public and also transporting the client to a mental health institution. The Primary Health Care (PHC) is very seldom used Economic factors like unemployment strongly infiuence the mental health of people and also affect their social functioning, as it is shown by the high levels of unemployment in the sample. Some of these clients resort to living on the streets, because they cannot find employment and are homeless. The study has also shown the importance of education and training of health professionals in PHC, in identifying the first signs of mental illness when clients present themselves and making available the psychotropic drugs at the PHCC as this is the first port of call for clients. Psycho education of traditional healers, spiritual healers, SAPS and community should be implemented on when and how to refer clients, how to handle mentally ill clients.


Thesis (M.Cur.)-University of Natal, Durban, 2001.


Mental health services--KwaZulu-Natal., Primary health care--KwaZulu-Natal., Healers., Mental health planning., Blacks--Mental health., Theses--Nursing.