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Schizophrenia, psychiatry and East African Muslim families in the United Kingdom: a pilot study

Farida Ally (Department of Psychosocial Studies, University of East London, London, UK)
Toni Brennan (Department of Psychosocial Studies / Social Sciences, University of East London, London, UK)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of East African Muslim families who have a family member diagnosed with schizophrenia in the UK mental health system.


In-depth semi-structured interviews with East African Muslim participants who had a close family member diagnosed with schizophrenia.


Thematic analysis of the interviews revealed participants’ concerns over diagnosis, over the side effects of medication and over the lack of choice of treatment. They reported disappointment and frustration with the rejection by psychiatric services of alternative conceptualizations of mental distress incorporating religious beliefs. Participants called for more culturally sensitive service provision open to taking into account non-western conceptualizations of mental distress and its treatment.

Research limitations/implications

Caution should be exercised in drawing firm conclusions from a pilot study with only four participants although generalization is not an aim of small-scale qualitative research.

Practical implications

The overall negative perceptions of psychiatric services in the participants’ accounts point to poor communication between services and service users and their families. If there are attempts at culturally sensitive service provision, according to this study, they are implemented elsewhere/not extensive enough/not reaching everyone – which warrants further investigation.


This study is valuable because it offers insights on how East African Muslim families living in the UK (an under-researched minority) experience the impact of living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and contact with mental health services, within the context of a “Western” model of mental distress dramatically different from and rarely open to the conceptualization shared in their culture of origin.



The authors wish to thank the participants in this study for their sine qua non contribution, kindness and insight.


Ally, F. and Brennan, T. (2015), "Schizophrenia, psychiatry and East African Muslim families in the United Kingdom: a pilot study", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 45-51.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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