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THE PROCESS OF HOLY WATER THERAPY AND THE INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF MENTAL ILLNESS [Abstract ID: 1207-13]
Many Ethiopians emphasize supernatural explanations for illness, especially in the case of mental illness. The most common indigenous therapy is the use of holy water, in the context of an institutionalized system. The application of modern biomedical approaches to illness is hampered by the lack of knowledge of traditional therapies, consequently, it is important to understand and analyze traditional healing techniques, in order to be able to harmonize the different systems in a way which will bring maximum benefit to those suffering from illness. My research was focused on understanding indigenous therapy techniques from the patients’ perspective, through intensive participant-observation fieldwork at an important recently emerged holy water site on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Psychological praxis and the health establishment in general has to take into account indigenous perceptions of illness and healing techniques, in order to develop holistic therapies which are appropriate to the local context. One of the Ethiopian Millennium goals is the appropriate treatment of the mentally ill; this can only be achieved by integrating traditional therapies with modern biomedicine approaches, which is the ultimate aim of my research.