Why mental health and Psychotherapy, in general, are taboo in Africa?

Boulama K.
by Boulama Kandine
Oct 22, 2022 — 2 mins read

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In many African cultures, mental health and psychotherapy are taboo. These taboos exist for many reasons, such as a lack of awareness or understanding of these issues, or a belief that these issues are not relevant to African culture.

Why mental health issues are taboo?

For one, mental illness is often seen as a sign of weakness, and seeking help for mental health issues is seen as admitting defeat.

Moreover, In many African cultures, people believe that if you are mentally ill, it means that you are not able to take care of yourself and you are not able to function in society. This can lead to discrimination and exclusion from community life.

It is also worth mentioning that mental health is also seen as a very private issue, and discussing mental health problems is often seen as taboo. Additionally, mental health issues are often viewed as a Western problem, and therefore, not relevant to Africans.

Finally, there is a lack of mental health services and providers in Africa, which makes it difficult for people to get the help they need.

Why therapy is taboo?

One reason may be that most traditional African cultures place a strong emphasis on the extended family and community, and on the interdependence of individuals, rather than on the individual self.

This collectivist orientation may make it difficult for people to conceptualize mental health problems as primarily affecting individuals, rather than the community as a whole.

In addition, many traditional African cultures believe that problems and suffering are caused by spiritual forces and that the proper way to address them is through spirituality and ritual, rather than through talk therapy.

Ultimately, mental health problems may be seen as a sign of weakness or disgrace and may be stigmatized accordingly. All of these factors can make it difficult for people to seek out and receive psychotherapy.



Despite the challenges, it is important to raise awareness about mental health and provide access to psychotherapy for those who need it. Mental illness is a real problem in Africa and it needs to be addressed.


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