Research suggests ways to help mentally ill in Ghana's prayer camps

January 10, 2018 by Bill Hathaway, Yale University
Credit: Yale University

Many people with schizophrenia in Ghana spend their days chained to walls in prayer camps where they are ministered to by spiritual healers and forced to fast and pray. A new study, based on a partnership between researchers at the University of Ghana and Yale University, shows that modern medications can improve symptoms of camp residents.

The findings reported Jan. 10 in the British Journal of Psychiatry will hopefully encourage local and multinational reform efforts to upgrade conditions for mental health patients in the West African nation, the authors say.

"Once you have strong scientific evidence that human lives can be improved by modern medicine, international criticisms of the current situation will be harder to ignore," said senior author Robert Rosenheck, professor of psychiatry, and epidemiology and public health, and a faculty member at the Child Study Center.

Rosenheck collaborated with Angela Ofori-Atta, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Ghana, to study the use of anti-psychotic medication for patients with schizophrenia in a large prayer camp in the hills above Accra, the nation's capital. The symptoms of camp residents improved as much as those being treated in Western clinics, even though the number of days spent in chains were not reduced.

Resistance to reform of prayer camps is rooted in economics and hampered by a lack of trained providers, Rosenheck says. Ghana, a country of 25 million people, is served by only 25 psychiatrists and 30 clinical psychologists.

Those suffering from psychotic episodes could be referred to nearby hospitals for acute care until they no longer needed to be chained, Ofori-Atta urged.

"Thereafter, faith healing camps can provide care with professional oversight of medication," she said. "Studying the Bible and teaching of the Word can still be encouraged."

Explore further: Early, aggressive psychosis treatment justifies cost

Related Stories

Early, aggressive psychosis treatment justifies cost

February 1, 2016
The additional cost of intensive treatment for individuals who have just experienced their first psychotic episode is justified by the significant improvement the treatment produces in quality of life, according to a Yale-led ...

Violence declines during intensive PTSD treatment, study says

December 22, 2017
Combat veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced declines in violent behavior while undergoing treatment in an intensive Veterans Health Administration (VHA) PTSD program, according to a new ...

Team-based treatment for first episode psychosis found to be high value

February 1, 2016
New analysis from a mental health care study shows that "coordinated specialty care" (CSC) for young people with first episode psychosis is more cost-effective than typical community care. Cost-effectiveness analysis in health ...

Research may explain why some people with schizophrenia do not respond to treatment

November 29, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—New research suggests that the molecular mechanism leading to schizophrenia may be different in patients who fail to respond to anti-psychotic medication compared to patients who do respond.

Ghana cholera outbreak at 'staggering' level

August 15, 2014
A cholera outbreak in Ghana's capital has reached "staggering" levels, an official said Friday, blaming poor sanitation and overcrowded health facilities for the rapid spread of the disease.

Recommended for you

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.