Original Research

Perceptions of psychosocial disability amongst psychiatric service users and caregivers in South Africa

Carrie Brooke-Sumner, Crick Lund, Inge Petersen
African Journal of Disability | Vol 3, No 1 | a146 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v3i1.146 | © 2014 Carrie Brooke-Sumner, Crick Lund, Inge Petersen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 July 2014 | Published: 12 December 2014

About the author(s)

Carrie Brooke-Sumner, School of Applied Human Sciences, Discipline of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Crick Lund, Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Inge Petersen, School of Applied Human Sciences, Discipline of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Background: In many parts of South Africa there is little support for people with psychosocial disability caused by schizophrenia, beyond provision of psychotropic medications. Appropriate community-based psychosocial rehabilitation interventions are a crucial element of mental health service development.

Objectives: This study aimed to use an explanatory model of illness framework to document experiences of illness, disability and recovery amongst service users with schizophrenia and their caregivers in a poorly resourced area in the North West Province. Data were used to provide recommendations for a contextually appropriate non-specialist facilitated group psychosocial rehabilitation intervention.

Method: Eighteen in-depth individual interviews were conducted: nine with schizophrenia service users and nine with caregivers. Interviews were conducted by two trained field researchers; both clinical psychologists fluent in the first language of participants. All interviews were recorded, translated and transcribed. Data were thematically analysed using NVivo 9.

Results: Participants linked the illness to witchcraft, poverty and stress. Family conflict was recognised in the course of the illness, causing stress and challenges for emotional well-being. Knowledge of diagnosis and biomedical treatment was minimal. Key factors recognised by service users as promoting recovery were the ability to work, and the support of traditional healers and religious structures.

Conclusion: Based on the findings of this study, a group psychosocial rehabilitation intervention emerged as a recommendation, with the incorporation of psycho-education, adherence support, coping skills, and opportunities for income generation and productive activity. The importance of also enlisting the support of religious leaders and traditional healers in supporting recovery is emphasised.


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Crossref Citations

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