Views and experiences of traditional and Western medicine practitioners on potential collaboration in the care of people living with mental illness in Malawi

Demoubly Kokota1*, Robert C Stewart2, Catherine Abbo3, Chiwoza Bandawe1

  1. Department of Mental Health, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, Blantyre, Malawi.
  2. Division of Psychiatry, University of Edinburgh, UK.
  3. Department of Psychiatry, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

Corresponding Author: *Demoubly Kokota: (


Collaboration between traditional and biomedical medicine can lead to holistic care and improved health outcomes for people with mental illnesses. The current study aimed to explore the views and experiences of traditional and western medicine practitioners on potential collaboration in the care of people living with mental illness in Blantyre, Malawi.
A phenomenological qualitative research design was used. Data were collected using both one-on-one in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs). Participants were traditional healers and western medicine practitioners in Blantyre, Malawi. We conducted 10 in-depth interviews with traditional healers, 4 focus group discussions (2 for traditional healers and 2 for western medicine practitioners) and 6 key informant interviews with leaders of the two groups. The sample was determined based on data saturation. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. We used a combination of deductive and inductive coding.
Five broad themes were identified from the data: experiences with collaboration, views on collaboration, models of collaboration, barriers to collaboration, and factors that can facilitate collaboration. participants had no experience of formal collaboration between traditional healers and western healthcare workers in the management of mental illness. However, some reported experience of successful collaborations in other health areas such as safe motherhood, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Many participants showed a positive attitude toward collaboration and were in support of it. Barriers to collaboration included negative attitudes and a lack of resources. Factors that can facilitate collaboration were dialogue, training and respect. Referral and training were the preferred forms of collaboration.
With proper structures and respectful dialogue, a collaboration between traditional and western medicine practitioners is possible in Blantyre, Malawi.

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