Mental illness and Egyptian families

Endrawes Gihane, Louise O'Brien, Lesley Wilkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)


People from Egypt have cultural belief systems about mental illness and its causes that are at variance from Anglo-Saxon-derived understandings that predominate in Australian psychiatry. These differences in understanding can affect how mental health services are experienced and accepted by this cultural group. This paper is a review of the literature on Egyptians' beliefs about mental illness and how families in Egypt cope with a relative with mental illness. Because of limited literature on Egyptians' experience with mental illness in Australia, this paper will be used to shed some light on the way in which people experience mental illness and communicate this suffering in the Australian context, based on what has been known to occur in Egypt. The Zar cult and related practices focusing on belief in the evil eye, magic, and evil possession will be explored. Historical and contemporary mental health care systems in Egypt, and the influence of education and religion are discussed. In order to provide culturally sensitive care, nurses need to be aware of possible influences on belief systems about mental illness. This paper has the potential of helping nurses to gain a deeper understanding of cultures that differ from theirs and to provide care to clients and their families based on respect for the others' beliefs, values, and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-187
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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