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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 125-129

The concept and attitudes of primary health care workers towards mental illness in Rural Igbo land of Nigeria

Department of Community Medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Enugu, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
MPH, FMCPH Osa Eloka C. Ekwueme
Department of Community Medicine, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, P.M.B. 01129, Enugu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Aim: To assess of the knowledge, treatment preferences and attitudes of Primary Health Care (PHC) workers' towards the mentally ill. Method: A descriptive study of all PHC workers in Igbo-Etiti LGA of Enugu State, Nigeria. Data was collected using a pre-tested, self-administered questionnaire. A 5-point Likert scale ranging from “totally disagree = 1” to “totally agree = 5” was used to score their attitudes. Data was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences and Programme for Epidemiologist software. Results: Out of the 100 PHC workers studied, 41% on the average had incorrect knowledge of the causes of mental illness while 54% had correct knowledge. Evil spirit possession and native charm/juju were incorrectly mentioned by half of the respondents as causes of mental illness while alcohol/drug abuse, emotional problems and marijuana smoking were correctly implicated by more than 70% of respondents. Although 90% of the primary health care workers preferred hospital doctors/psychiatrists to treat the mentally ill, 49% and 47% would also recommend native/traditional healers and deliverance/prayer houses respectively. Their attitudes towards these patients in the order of decreasing negativity were mostly stereotypic, separatism, stigmatisation, pessimistic prediction, restrictiveness and least likely benevolence. Conclusion: The PHC workers demonstrated a poor knowledge of the aetiology of mental disorders and a high negative attitude towards the mentally ill. It is recommended that these health workers should be retrained urgently in the interest of the mentally ill in their environment.

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