July 4, 2020
Understanding mental health in South Africa

From the website: "Critical psychologist and UKZN lecturer Nhlanhla Mkhize states that “it does not make sense to explain the psychological needs and experiences of people in developing societies only with reference to conceptual categories and philosophical systems imported from the west” (4).  To do so would be to incorrectly assume that before colonisation, the indigenous of the world have not been grappling with forms of knowledge; considering the changes in the social, historical and cultural contexts and the implication of these on their wellbeing.

Thus, this project is one of self determination, of identifying indigenous practices and placing them within a universal claim for conceptual categories and frameworks coming from the global south. This is a project concerned with the decolonisation of psychology — a psychology that was used to justify “the exploitation of black labour and to deny black people access to education and economic resources” (5). This project seeks to add to the conversations concerned with the work of expanding what it means to be human” (6) beyond the frameworks inherited from a legacy of othering and further pathologising the other.

The precursor of health is understood as a balance of the various beings within the collective and individual cosmology as well as a balance of the social (including socio-economic, educational and interpersonal relationships), environmental and biological aspects of life. The human is inherently a multiplicity of voices. Each voice needing to be heard and attended to in the developmental journey of human life. This also has implications on human development in integrating the various layers of the human. Health is expanded across dimensions and times, and mental health cannot be separate from a concept of biological, spiritual, social and environmental health. This concept of health throws into question the concepts of Cartesian Dualism of mind and body as separate. In this way within traditional healing, the causes of illness consider the multiplicity of the human and interventions seek to balance the various aspects of the human’s cosmology."