Background: Belief in faith healers, lack of awareness and stigma of mental illness have placed obstacles in timely identification and treatment of mental illness. This study assessed the factors influencing individuals with mental illness to seek faith healers. It was also planned to study the delay caused due to faith healers in starting psychiatric treatment.
Methods: Cross-sectional study of 100 consecutive patients who had visited a faith healer at least once and attending the outpatient clinic of the department of psychiatry was done using a semi-structured questionnaire.
Results: Fear of psychiatric medication (46%), stigma of psychiatric illness (44%) and beliefs in myths (43%) were the main reasons for avoiding psychiatric treatment. There was a significant delay in psychiatric treatment initiation when comparing people who first visit faith healers to those who first visited psychiatrists (28.2 months vs 14.5 months, p=0.002). Post-visit to psychiatrist, 57% prefer to continue with the psychiatrist, and 34% would visit both, and only 5% would prefer faith healer.
Conclusions: Myths and stigma regarding psychiatric illness are prevalent, and mental health education can improve the scenario.
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