Health seeking behaviour of mentally ill patients in Nigeria

Aniebue Patricia Nonye, Ekwueme Christiandolus Oseloka


Aim; to determine the health seeking behavior of mentally ill patients in Enugu, south east Nigeria.
Design, setting, subjects: A consecutive recruitment of 397 patients receiving treatment at the Neuro psychiatric hospital Enugu, south east Nigeria was done. Using a structured questionnaire, information obtained from the respondents included their socio-demographic characteristics, knowledge of cause of mental illness, treatment places first employed by patients and reasons for doing so.
Results: The age range of the respondents was 15-75 with a mean of 31.6years SD±11.0 years. Two hundred and twenty three (56.2%) respondents were males while 174 (43.8%) were females. Treatment options first employed by respondents were prayer houses (34.5%) followed by Psychiatric hospital (32.0%).Reasons for treatment options employed were chiefly confidence of receiving cure at treatment place (46.3%) ignorance of existence of mental health service (14.6%) and belief that such condition was not amenable to orthodox treatment (8.1%). Patient’s perception of cause of ailment revealed demonic and spiritual forces as the commonest. Gender, educational status, attributing mental illness to a rational cause and dwelling in an urban residence were significantly associated with employing specialist care as first treatment option.
Conclusion: Misconceptions regarding the cause of mental illness still abound amongst the mentally ill patients in Nigeria. Consequently psychiatric consultation is not usually employed early especially in the rural areas. Community health education aimed at changing the misconceptions and the integration of mental health services into the primary health care service is advocated.

Authors' affiliations

Aniebue Patricia Nonye, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital,Enugu Nigeria

Ekwueme Christiandolus Oseloka, University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital,Enugu Nigeria

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Health seeking behavior; Mentally ill patients

Cite this article

South African Journal of Psychiatry 2009;15(1):19.

Article History

Date submitted: 2008-09-27
Date published: 2009-03-20

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