11.1.2 Acceptance people’s beliefs
Every community has a rich experience and varying views and beliefs on all aspects of life, including mental health problems. These views and beliefs are often embedded in the community’s history and shaped by observations and events that happened in the past.
In your past life or work experience you may have come across people with serious medical conditions, such as epilepsy. Recall one such situation and describe what people in the local community thought was the cause of this illness. You may also want to refer back to Section 9.2.2 in Study Session 9, on explanatory models and cultural context, before answering this question.
We don’t know what exact situation and medical condition you recalled, and the people in your local community may have responded in different ways. One common belief in rural Ethiopia is that epilepsy is caused by being possessed by the devil. The person with epilepsy or their family may therefore think that medical treatment is unnecessary.
A simple technique to understand what people think about mental health is to ask them a specific question and allow them to narrate their views in their own words without too many interruptions. It is important to accept that people may have different ideas about mental health. This respect for the existing values and beliefs allows you to subsequently plan and execute your care. For example, in the situation described above, about the person with epilepsy who thinks they are possessed by the devil, you would make sure to give your client some essential education about epilepsy and encourage them to take appropriate drug treatment. The topic of epilepsy is discussed in more detail in Study Session 15.