An assessment of knowledge, beliefs and practices concerning epilepsy among christians in Ile-Ife
The study identified the knowledge and beliefs about the aetiology of epilepsy held by different categories of Christians in Ile-Ife. It analysed how these beliefs and practices of Christians influenced their attitude to, and their social perception of people with epilepsy. It also investigated the religious and social factors that influenced the choice of treatment by people with epilepsy. The study further examined the extent to which Christian clerics were able to be mobilized to provide better care and social tolerance for people with epilepsy. This was with a view to determining how the stigma and discrimination against people with epilepsy could be reduced. The study employed both primary and secondary sources of data collection. The primary source included administration of questionnaire administered on 150 Christians drawn in equal number from some selected mainline Protestant and Pentecostal churches. The mainline Protestant churches purposively selected included Anglican, Baptist and Methodist, while the Pentecostal churches included Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), The Apostolic Church (TAC), and Gospel Faith Mission International (GOFAMINT). The selection of these churches was based on their geographical spread and numerical strength in Ile-Ife. These were supplemented with structured interviews held with two clerics each from the selected churches. Also, participant observation was carried out among the epileptic patients at the Neuro-clinic of the ObafemiAwolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex for a period of three months, June-August 2012. The secondary source included books, journal articles, newspapers and the Internet. The data collected were analysed using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The results showed that most Christians in Ile-Ife attributed the cause of epilepsy to brain disease, spiritual attack, heredity and demonic possession. The study found out that they also held the belief that it was contagious, thus accounting for their low tolerant level. The study also found out that the religious beliefs of relative and friends, the nature and frequency of seizure, and residential location were the social and religious factors responsible for the preferred choice of treatment by persons with epilepsy. Furthermore, the study found out that despite the adherence of these Christians to their various religious denominations, some of them still recommended traditionally-based healing alongside church healing and deliverance sessions. The study concluded that clerics and neurologists could work effectively for better care and social tolerance for people with epilepsy in order to reduce the stigma and discrimination against them in the society.