Cultural and Local Concepts of Mental Illness among Rwandans Living in Finland and Belgium

Jean Banyanga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The knowledge andunderstanding of cultural concepts of mental illness is essential to planpublic mental health programs and aid projects in East and Central African countries.This study aims to understand the cultural concepts of mental illness and drawa useful framework that could inform the clinical practices of psychiatristsworking with Rwandan people who were traumatized by their experiences duringthe 1994 genocide and its aftermath, living in Finland and Belgium.Questionnaires were dispatched in 27 different locations of Finland and Belgiumin schools and churches (13 locations in Belgium & 14 locations inFinland). A total of 341 respondents (166 males, 175 females), 50 from Finlandand 291 from Belgium, participated in the study. The findings show thatRwandans in Belgium were more satisfied than those living in Finland, with friends,religious leaders, and spiritual healers helping them to cope with their trauma.Rwandans in Finland, on the other hand, relied on traditional means (weddingand dance), medicines and the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism more thanthose living in Belgium.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)104–111
JournalPsychology Research and Applications
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • mental illness
  • local concepts
  • Culture

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