Using traditional medicine to help with bereavement loss and coping: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of traditional healers' experiences

Makgahlela, M., Mabidilala, M., Lesolang, N., Jidong, D.E. ORCID: 0000-0001-5034-0335 and Monera-Penduka, T.G., 2021. Using traditional medicine to help with bereavement loss and coping: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of traditional healers' experiences. The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice. ISSN 1755-6228

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Abstract

Purpose: In bereavement, memories of the loss, especially traumatic ones, can be distressful and complicate the grieving process. Although some conventional therapies have proven beneficial in lessening complicated bereavement, African indigenous methods used for the same purpose have not been well-documented. This study explored Northern Sotho traditional healers’ lived experiences regarding the medicinal benefits of Bolebatša when used in mental health-care.

Design/methodology/approach: Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, this study explored traditional healers’ (n = 19; 5 = males; females = 14; mean age = 65 years, SD: 11.6) experiences and their insights regarding the management of traumatic memories in bereavement. Participating healers were sampled using convenience and snowball strategies while data was collected using face-to-face dialogues, observations and a digital camera. Qualitatively derived data was transcribed and translated from the local language to English before it was analysed phenomenologically.

Findings: Data analysis resulted in four major themes: characterisation of Bolebatša as a herb used to manage mental and spiritual conditions; descriptions of the herb’s administration, dosage and related user health risk; perceived therapeutic benefits of the herb; and observed link between herbal medicine and African spirituality. The study findings suggest that the Bolebatša herb, derived from the tree scientifically called Lannea schweinfurthii is primarily used to induce forgetfulness of bereavement and trauma-related memories to enhance coping.

Research limitations/implications: Whilst this study illustrates the perceived healing benefits of Bolebatša in mental health care, it is noted that the findings may not necessarily be extrapolated to other contexts. Therefore, more studies are needed with the participation of traditional healers from different ethnic backgrounds to lend support to the present findings. Data from service users' experience of traditional healing in conjunction with traditional healers would have further benefited this study.

Practical implications: The findings are important for mental health professions as they open avenues for other forms of treatment for mental conditions that also need attention. Equally, there is a need for western trained mental health-care practitioners and researchers to study indigenous knowledge systems of healing for reverse knowledge transfer purposes.

Social implications: The findings also call on governments, and in this context, the South African government, to recognise, support and empower traditional healers as important role players in primary mental health care. Collaboration between western mental health practitioners and traditional healers could indeed be one important strategy towards the relief of the overwhelmed mental health-care systems in low-and-middle-income countries such as is the case in South Africa.

Originality/value: The findings open new avenues to scientific explorations of the significance of traditional medicines in bereavement care and coping. More importantly, on the Bolebatša herb’s anti-depressive and memory altering effects in mental health care.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice
Creators: Makgahlela, M., Mabidilala, M., Lesolang, N., Jidong, D.E. and Monera-Penduka, T.G.
Publisher: Emerald
Date: 25 October 2021
ISSN: 1755-6228
Identifiers:
NumberType
10.1108/jmhtep-07-2021-0087DOI
1492130Other
Rights: © 2021 Emerald Publishing Limited. Makgahlela, M., Mabidilala, M., Lesolang, N., Jidong, D. E., & Monera-Penduka, T. G. (2021). Using traditional medicine to help with bereavement loss and coping: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of traditional healers’ experiences. Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, https://doi.org/10.1108/jmhtep-07-2021-0087
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 11 Jan 2022 11:16
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2022 11:16
URI: http://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/45242

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