432 Mental Health
➤ Similar signs can
be caused by illness,
drug abuse, or
damage to the brain.
➤ No matter what
treatment is given, a
person with a mental
illness should be
treated with kindness,
respect, and dignity.
A person may be mentally ill if she has any of these signs:
• She hears voices or sees unusual things that others do not
hear or see (hallucinations).
• She has strange beliefs that interfere with daily life
(delusions)—for example, she thinks that loved ones are
trying to rob her.
• She no longer cares for herself—for example, she does
not get dressed, clean herself, or eat.
• She behaves in a strange way, like saying things that make
People who are not mentally ill sometimes act this way,
particularly if these behaviors are part of their community’s
beliefs or traditions. For example, if a woman says that she
received guidance in a dream, she may be drawing upon
traditional sources of knowledge and guidance—not suffering
from mental illness.These signs are more likely to be signs of
mental illness if they come so often and are so strong that a
person has difficulty carrying out daily activities.
Getting care for mental illness
Although in most places family members care for those who are mentally ill,
it is best if the person can also be treated by a trained mental health worker.
In some situations medicines are necessary, but they should never be the
Traditional healers can also play an important role in treating
mental illness. If they come from the same community as the
person with the problem, they may know and understand her.
Some healers also have treatments or rituals that can help a
woman overcome her problem.
Ask these questions before deciding on a treatment:
• What is the purpose of each step in the treatment? What should be
expected to happen?
• If the person is not a danger to herself or others, can she get mental health
care while living at home, or living together with others in her community?
• Will the family be involved in the treatment?
• Is the person providing treatment respected in the community?
• Do any of the treatments cause physical harm or shame?
If someone must be treated in a hospital, always ask to see it before leaving
her there. Make sure that the hospital is clean, that patients are safe and can
have visitors, and that they will get regular treatment with trained mental health
workers. Patients should be free to move about, unless they are a danger to
themselves or others. Also, make sure you find out what must be done to have
the person let out of the hospital later.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012