Original Articles

Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatric Disorders in Africa: Implications for Psychological Interventions

Published in: Journal of Psychology in Africa
Volume 19, issue 4, 2009 , pages: 483–489
DOI: 10.1080/14330237.2009.10820319
Author(s): Alan J. FlisherUniversity of Cape Town,, Crick LundUniversity of Cape Town,, Leslie SwartzUniversity of Stellenbosch,


The authors start by critically discussing some core features of Western psychiatric diagnosis, and present the cultural formulation as one approach to ensure that the cultural aspects of the diagnostic process are addressed, followed by a summary of what is known about the causes of psychiatric disorder. Five arguments are presented that provide support for the importance of psychiatric disorders in Africa: prevalence rates are high; psychiatric disorder is associated with a considerable burden from disability; in most cases, adults with psychiatric disorders experienced the onset of their disorder in childhood or youth; psychiatric disorders are strongly associated with medical conditions; and effective interventions exist for the majority of people suffering from psychiatric disorders. Against this background, current mental health services in Africa are reviewed. Finally, some suggestions are provided for how those providing psychological interventions can contribute to addressing the challenges posed by psychiatric disorders in Africa.

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