Use of Traditional and Alternative Healers by Psychiatric Patients: A Descriptive Study in Urban South Africa
This study investigates the pattern of use of traditional and alternative healers among psychiatric patients in Nelson Mandela Metropole. An interview schedule was applied to 254 subjects at six sites, enquiring about consultations with traditional and alternative healers in the past year. Multivariate analysis was performed to determine predictors of consultation. Overall, 78 (31%) of respondents had consulted a healer in the past year. The ethnic distribution was: 156 (61%) Black, 53 (21%) Coloured (Mixed Race), 42 (17%) White and three (1%) Indian. The male to female ratio was 119 (46.85%):135 (53.14%). The healers gave no advice about psychiatric medication to 48 (61.5%) of consulters, 23 (29.5%) were told to continue their medication, four (5.1%) told to stop, and one (1.3%) told to stop and restart later. In multivariate models, predictors of consultation were being Black and of lower education. Although 45 (58%) of the consulters indicated that medical treatment was more helpful than the healer’s, 45 (58%) intended to consult again. Overall, 22% of consulters reported abuse by the healer.