Traditional healers hear Western view

Penwell Dlamini

Penwell Dlamini

eMalahleni traditional healers have met Western-trained counsellors and were trained on medical subjects such as mental illness, depression and suicide.

About 20 traditional healers received half a day's training from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) on Saturday.

Sangomas, prophets and other traditional healers attended the training session at Poly Clinic in eMalahleni, formerly Witbank.

The training helped to equip the healers with counselling skills and forged a relationship between two outlooks that have often clashed.

Sadag said 72percent of black South Africans consult traditional healers before seeing medical doctors for conditions such as schizophrenia and HIV-Aids.

"If traditional healers understand mental illness it will be easier for them to refer their patients to doctors or counsellors," said Lefate Makunyane, a manager at Sadag.

"We want to encourage people to come to us for counselling and this is the best way to reach the public."

Makunyane discussed with the traditional healers how they could improve diagnoses of the illnesses by properly interviewing patients before prescribing medicines.

The healers discussed the challenges they faced in treating mental illness, depression and patients with HIV.

Makunyane used their accounts as case studies, which improved their understanding of the psychological terms that were used in the training.

The traditional healers received a certificate and an innovative education book with 16 key messages on HIV, nutrition, suicide, treatment, and the contact numbers of institutions where the healers and their patients could find more help.

The book is available in isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Tshivenda, Sesotho and Setswana.

Johanah Mogodi, 49, a traditional healer for 30 years, was one fo those who attended and praised the training.

She said: "It [the training] will help me to identify people who are mentally ill because of drugs and depression so that I can just refer them to doctors," .

Mogodi said she had already begun developing relationships with psychiatrists at Witbank General Hospital.