n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Pedi psychologists' perceptions of working with mental illness in the Pedi community in Limpopo, South Africa : the need to incorporate indigenous knowledge in diagnosis and treatment

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1683-0296



Mental illness is conceptualised differently across cultural and religious groups. Perceptions of mental illness that are held in communities play a role in the treatment sought and the response to treatment offered. Psychologists from these communities who work in the community are well positioned to provide insight into the perceptions of mental illness as well as the issues involved in working within their communities. A convenience sample of nine Pedi psychologists practising in the Sekhukhune and Capricorn districts of Limpopo, South Africa were interviewed about their work with members of the Pedi community as a means of exploring perceptions of mental illness and its' associated challenges and opportunities in the Pedi community. Semi structured interviews were conducted at the practitioners' rooms with each interview lasting approximately one hour. Thematic analysis of the results revealed four themes. These were: psychologists' perceptions of mental illness; conducting psychotherapy with clients who have spiritual or cultural beliefs of illness; perceptions of mental illness in the Pedi community; and the limited understanding of mental health services in the Pedi community. It is evident from the results that mental illness in the Pedi community is conceptualised differently to mainstream conceptualisations. There is therefore a need for culturally competent practitioners to work in communities holding cultural and religious beliefs in relation to mental illness in order for treatment to be successful. The perceptions of mental illness held by the Pedi community influences the type of treatment sought, with the choice of treatment often being traditional healing. Aside from cultural beliefs which makes traditional healing the first option for treatment, socio economic status and the cost of health care were also highlighted for the preference of traditional healing.

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