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ISSN: 0331-4111  e-ISSN: 2736-075X
Volume 22, No. 1, June 2024
Pages 92-110

DOI: 10.36108/NJSA/4202.22.0160

Understanding Mental Illness Narrative and Treatment Experiences in Africa

1Bello Almu and 2Jimoh Amzat
1,2 Department of Sociology, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, Nigeria
1 Medical Social Services Department, Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto


Over 970 million people globally and over 50 million in Nigeria are estimated to be affected by mental illness. The condition is associated with several psycho-cultural and social problems including stigma which poses a major challenge for people with mental illness experience. The paper examines the understanding of mental illness narrative and treatment experiences and employs a combination of Social Construction Theory and Total Institution Theory to enhance understanding of the phenomenon. The illness narrative highlights the role of social construction in shaping mental health perceptions, particularly in Africa fraught with mental health misconceptions and stigmatization. The understanding and perception of mental illness in African societies are deeply embedded in cultural and social contexts. This includes the attribution of mental illness to spiritual causes and the reliance on traditional healing methods. The lived experience of mental illness is characterized by prejudice, negative labels, devaluation of their capabilities, and discrimination. Obstacles in treating mental illness in Africa include cultural misconceptions, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, limited financial resources, a scarcity of trained professionals, and political commitment from African governments and policymakers. The paper strongly advocates for utilizing traditional and religious leaders to campaign against discrimination towards individuals with mental health issues.

KeywordsMental illness, reintegration, stigma, treatment experiences, Africa

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