Author(s): Aidoo M, Harpham T
Abstract Share this page
Abstract There is currently much debate about the cultural construction and specificity of mental health. It is thus not surprising that explanatory models, which look at the meaning of illness for those suffering from it, have been widely used within the mental health field. This paper considers the significance of explanatory models and presents a study comparing the explanatory models of mental ill health used by urban women in low-income groups and local health care practitioners in ZAMBIA: To measure mental ill-health status, an instrument recommended by the World Health Organization was used - the Self Reporting Questionnaire, 20 items (SRQ 20). To obtain explanatory models, Kleinman's classic eight questions were adapted. The terms used by the practitioners to define and explain the mental health problems of women in low-income groups were 'stress and depression', with these two concepts being used interchangeably. In contrast, the phrase most frequently used by the women was 'problems of the mind'. The professionals regarded the experience of depression itself as a manifestation of ill health. For the women, however, only the physical symptoms were defined as ill health. There was a common agreement, however, that the women's socioeconomic situation as a major causal factor. Both groups identified the home environment as a key determinant, particularly the quality of marital relationships. Greater awareness of explanatory models may have beneficial effects on mental health policy and planning, both at national levels (where recognition of the true prevalence and burden of mental ill health should have an impact on public health policy) and at the level of local implementation (where training of health professionals to take patients' explanatory models into account might contribute towards the diagnosis of mental health problems).
This article was published in Health Policy Plan
and referenced in Clinics in Mother and Child Health