From a psychological perspective there seems to be scant knowledge regarding the perceptions and beliefs of black traditional healers in South Africa about mental wellness and, consequently, also about mental illness. The aim of this qualitative study is to encapsulate the beliefs of black traditional healers in terms of four major areas, namely, definitions of mental wellness, definitions of mental illness, causes of mental illness, and approaches to promoting mental wellness. A convenience sample of black traditional healers was selected to participate in this study. Most of the participants practice in the greater Gauteng region and hold a monthly gathering in the Hammanskraal area where most of the research was conducted. There were no specific requirements in terms of age, gender, or field of specialisation. A total of 37 black traditional healers participated. A questionnaire was used to gather information on the beliefs and perceptions of the participants about mental wellness. The participants completed the questionnaires, after which the data was collected, and then analysed by means of thematic analysis. After the data had been analysed and transcribed it was returned to the participants for them to ascertain whether the interpretations were correct. The data that was interpreted showed that the black traditional healers participating in this study have very poorly developed definitions of mental wellness, as well as inadequate knowledge about Western mental health workers. The unique definition of mental illness as perceived by black traditional healers gave rise to new insights. During the research it emerged that there was a pressing need for proper training for black traditional healers in terms of what mental wellness actually is, and the functions of Western mental health workers. Also to the flipside it provides very important insights as to how mental wellness, mental illness and the management or promotion of these are perceived and approached by the black traditional healers participating in this study.
Dissertation (MA (Clinical Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2008.