An Ethnographic Study on Clergymen Concerning the Aetiology and Management of Mental Illness in South Western Nigeria

Adeoye Oyewole *

Department of Psychiatry, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology &Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria.

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.


Background: The clergy plays an important role in the care of mentally ill people in developing countries because of the predominant belief that supernatural factors are responsible for mental illness and spiritual healers are sought by the mentally ill and/or their relatives for treatment. This study aimed to assess clergymen’s beliefs about the etiology and treatment of mental illnesses in southwest Nigeria.

Methods: The study was qualitative design and ethnographic in nature, conducted on one hundred and forty-eight clergymen at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria. A convenient sampling technique was used and Self-administered questionnaires to obtain sociodemographic details. An In-depth/Semi-structured interview involving Focus group discussions (FGD) and key informant interviews (KII) was used for the study. Data were analyzed using SPSS version 20. The sociodemographic variables were presented on a frequency table.

Results: The study involved hundred and forty-eight respondents with male preponderance. From the focus group discussion and key informant interview, respondents believed that mental illness depends on the victim’s predispositions and could as well result from spiritual attacks directly or indirectly through or from ancestral lineage, genetic factors, or evil forces. Although most of the respondents argued that mental illness is caused solely by spiritual attacks and can only be treated by spiritual means like an exorcism.  However, the majority believed that a holistic approach to treatment must involve the spiritual, psychological and medical.

Conclusion: The factor of theological education shines through in the definition, recognition, treatment, the concept of cure and clergy role in the management and community advocacy for mental illness although within the context of cultural beliefs of supernatural etiology of mental illness. With improved knowledge and their holistic approach to care, the clergymen will be able to effectively work with the orthodox medical practitioners in a wholesome way through an effective referral system, ensuring compliance, rehabilitation and banishing discrimination.

Keywords: Ethnographic, clergymen, mental illness, southwest Nigeria

How to Cite

Oyewole , A. (2023). An Ethnographic Study on Clergymen Concerning the Aetiology and Management of Mental Illness in South Western Nigeria. Advances in Research, 24(3), 25–35.


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