Ghanaian American Clergy’s Perceptions and Practice Experiences with Mental Illness and Its Treatment

Philip Kwasi Elike, Fordham University


Studies have suggested that religiously oriented individuals are most disposed to seeking help for their mental health conditions from religious leaders such as the clergy rather than mental health professionals. As a result, the clergy play very significant roles in mental health treatment, especially for religiously oriented individuals. This study employed descriptive phenomenological methods to explore Ghanaian American clergy’s perceptions about mental illness and its treatment. Eight Ghanaian American clergy in New York City participated in the study. An open-ended interview guide was used to collect the data through face-to-face interviews with participants to explore their lived experiences with what they view as the causes of mental illness and its treatment; and possible changes in their perceptions as a result of their experiences in the United States. The study findings suggested that the Ghanaian American clergy assign multiple factors as the causes for mental illnesses, including spiritual influences, biological, and psychosocial factors. Most of the participants believed that persons diagnosed with mental health issues are capable of functioning normally with the support of medication and other behavioral interventions. The findings also suggested experiences from living in the United States positively changed the perception of the participants about mental illness. The study findings have implications for fostering collaboration between social work practitioners and the clergy for the provision of mental health services. Additionally, the findings can be informative in developing religious and spiritual content in the curriculum for social work education and training. The study findings can also inform the incorporation of spiritual models into mental health policies at the governmental and non-governmental levels.

Subject Area

Social work|Mental health|Public health|Public policy|Spirituality|Public administration|Clergy

Recommended Citation

Elike, Philip Kwasi, "Ghanaian American Clergy’s Perceptions and Practice Experiences with Mental Illness and Its Treatment" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28255454.