Religious Coping and Caregivers Burden in Carers of the Mentally Ill in Nigeria: A Study from a General Hospital Psychiatric Out-Patient Unit

Ukpong, Dominic I. (2009)


Background: Nigeria with a population of over 140 million, has so many religious groupings. Despite evidence that people frequently turn to religion for support in the face of adversity, there are no studies examining the prevalence of religious coping in the carers of the mentally ill in Nigeria. The association between religious coping and burden levels in these caregivers has also not been assessed. Methods: The burden of mental illness and religious coping was studied using standard instruments. Eighty four caregivers and their relatives recruited from the psychiatric outpatient clinic of Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesa, Osun State, Nigeria, took part in the study. Results: Fifty four participants (64.3%) agreed to having received spiritual support in dealing with relative's illness within past 3 months prior to research contact. Perceiving spiritual and religious beliefs as important in dealing with illness had significant negative correlations with financial burden scores (r = 0.31; p = 0.004), burdensome effects on family leisure (r = -0.23; p = 0.04), effects on family interaction (r = -0.25; p = 0.02) and total burden score (r = -0.24; p = 0.03). However, receipt of religious or spiritual support was positively correlated with disruption of family routine, and this was significant (r = +0.30; p = 0.0007). There were significant positive correlations between frequency of prayers and financial burden (r = +0.35; p = 0.001); frequency of visit to religious leaders and effects on family routine (r = +0.32; p = 0.003); increased attendance at religious activities and disruption of family routine (r = +0.21; p = 0.05). All items of religiosity had negative correlations with caregiver anxiety, but was significant only with increased attendance at religious activities (r = -0.21; p = 0.05). Even though we had negative correlations between caregiver depression and items of religiosity, they did not reach statistical significance. Conclusion: Spiritual leaders or the clergy form part of a patients' social network, and they are frequently consulted in times of illness/distress. There is therefore a need for mental health professionals to involve faith communities in caregiver intervention research.