The Role of Indigenous Knowledge System in Mental Health Development: Case of Mental Health in Africa

The study recognized the central place of indigenous knowledge systems in identification and management of mental health problems in typical African society. The dominant influence of western perspectives undermined African wisdom on mental health. This study underscored the important role indigenous knowledge systems in sustainable mental wellbeing. It proved costless to reinstate African Wisdom formally among the recognized and mainstream practices to solve the inconclusive challenges of modern or western perspectives of mental health.

Purpose of the Study:

1. To explore the role of indigenous knowledge in mental health development in Africa. Specific Objectives: 1) To identify the forms of indigenous knowledge that contribute to mental health development in Africa. 2) To demonstrate the application of indigenous knowledge to develop mental health in Africa. 3) To assess the impact of indigenous knowledge on mental health development in Africa. 4) To find the challenges of indigenous knowledge affecting mental health development in Africa. 5) To discuss steps taken to develop Indigenous Knowledge affecting mental health development in Africa.‎


The study used exploratory study design that adopted historical analysis of inquiry to understand current phenomena. It involved participant observations in groups of 50 people per country within a time lags of 5 days, 3 months, and 12 months. The settings took the form of workshops, conference panels, lectures, and interpersonal interactions. The lived experiences were written down and patterns of relationship observed written down in line with the study objectives. The observations were then interpreted and patterns explained.


The forms of indigenous knowledge prominent in Africa to day are traditional experiences transfered to new generation by way of observations and instructions. In formal education some subject represented indigenous knowledge and was passed on to learners. Practising cultural expections and obeying instructions strengthened identity and royalty to one’s community and preserved healthy relationships which explained success. Mental health was associated to success in one’s endeavours at different stages of development. People operating within their tradition exhibited positive sense of wellbeing. Their behaviours were consistent with the instructions of the traditions and practices were done with great levels of respect. Loose safeguards against external influences have overwhelmed individuals. Not all individuals are able to withstand external influences. Revival of traditional institutions and educating new generations in aspects of their culture like cleaning, cooking, relating to elders and leaders. The newer generations are able to solve own problems and tend for themselves in absence of elders.


Indigenous knowledge was central predictor of mental health in Africa. Africans were equipped with sets of experiences within their traditions on how to relate tend for themselves, how to relate with elders, leaders, parents and age-mates well, and importance of working hard to support families and community in times of need. The success at living up to to the expectation of society came with wonderful states of mental wellbeing since aspects like disobedience, and undesirable conflicts which undermined mental wellbeing were prevented through traditional instructions about expected practices at different stafes of growth and development, where healthy transitions into adulthood predicted mental wellbeing and longlife.‎

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