"How I Floated on Gentle Webs of Being": Psychiatrists Stories About the Mental Health Treatment Gap in Africa.

Cooper, S; (2015) "How I Floated on Gentle Webs of Being": Psychiatrists Stories About the Mental Health Treatment Gap in Africa. Culture, medicine and psychiatry. ISSN 0165-005X DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11013-015-9474-3

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A strong movement has emerged recently which is highlighting the high levels of untreated mental illness in Africa and making proposals for reducing this 'gap' in mental health care. This movement has been criticised for insufficiently attending to the epistemologies embedded in its recommendations, and inadequately considering the views of practitioners 'on the ground'. Employing a narrative-based approach, I accessed the stories about the mental health 'treatment gap' of 28 psychiatrists all working clinically in public mental health care settings in South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria or Ethiopia. Rather than focusing on the content of these stories, I was more interested in their underpinning meaning-codes and epistemological politics. Dominant thinking about the 'treatment gap' was heavily informed by a biomedical paradigm, and associated epistemological order of European Colonial Modernity. There were, however, cracks in this master narrative, which crystalised in the stories that were told by three particular psychiatrists. Their narratives operated within an alternative paradigm, one which appears to be informed by the tradition of phenomenology, and in particular the ideas associated with French philosopher Merleau-Ponty. This more marginalised thinking may offer important insights into reducing the mental health 'treatment gap' in Africa in ways very different from those created by current seats of power.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Social and Environmental Health Research
PubMed ID: 26475788
Web of Science ID: 379985700001
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/2331664


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