Mental health is a critical aspect of well-being that transcends cultures. In Senegal, mental health practices are rooted in cultural and spiritual frameworks. It’s important to recognize the importance of fostering a unique blend of traditional and modern approaches to address the mental health needs of the Senegalese people.
The Stigma of Mental Health in Senegal
Although there are psychiatrists available, Senegalese people are often hesitant to contact them for support due to stereotypes and the stigma of needing help for one’s mental health. On average, there are 178 people per every 100,000 Senegalese admitted into mental hospitals each year.
Schizophrenia and hysteria are the top two mental disorders diagnosed in Senegal.
Many Senegalese people associate psychiatrists with psychiatric medications and serious mental health issues. Therefore, they are less likely to contact them for help for fear of social exclusion. Instead, people prefer to seek help from traditional healers in their community.
Local organizations are working with international partners to raise awareness about mental health. These efforts aim to dispel myths, encourage open conversations and promote seeking help when needed. By aligning these initiatives with cultural values, they are more likely to be accepted and embraced by the community.
Challenges for Mental Health Care in Senegal
Senegal’s first psychiatric unit was established at Fann Hospital in 1956 in the capital of Dakar. Today, only 6% of Senegal’s gross domestic product is spent on mental health in Senegal; resources and psychiatric units are minimal. In Africa, only $0.1 per capita is spent by the government on mental health.
A limited number of mental health providers presents a challenge. There are only “0.33 psychiatrists and 0.03 psychologists per 100,000 people in Senegal.” There is also little guidance available on how to integrate mental health services into primary care practices in Senegal.
There has been limited research on mental health research done in Senegal. Additionally, the research suggests that there is limited mental health training in the country and there are significant knowledge gaps among Senegal’s medical professionals when it comes to mental health.
This does not mean that nothing is being done about mental health in Senegal. In fact, most of the work around mental health involves the Senegalese community.
Communal values play a significant role in shaping mental health practices in Senegal. The concept of “teranga,” or hospitality, underscores the importance of interconnectedness and support within Senegalese communities. Communal values extend to mental health concerns, with family members, friends and other community members helping address mental health challenges and providing a support network.
Spirituality and Healing
Spirituality is intricately woven into mental health practices in Senegal. There are traditional healers in Senegal known as marabouts. These marabouts hold positions of respect within their communities. They often provide counseling, guidance and rituals that are believed to alleviate mental distress. Some of the rituals used to address psychological health include prayer, herbal remedies and other holistic methods.
Senegal’s approach to mental health proves that cultural inclusivity is integral. By honoring traditions, the country is creating a holistic mental health framework that resonates with its residents. Senegal serves as an inspiring example of how culture can be a foundation for resilience and well-being.
– Joy Loving