Background Mental illnesses and disabilities as well as epileptic diseases remain an important public health issue. In Côte d'Ivoire, the provision of psychiatric care and specialised psychosocial facilities is almost non-existent. Non-conventional mental health care facilities, also known as ‘Prayer Camps’, are the first point of contact for people suffering from mental illness and epilepsy in Côte d'Ivoire – although not accounted for by the Ivorian health care system.
Methods For the survey, a quantitative method with an exploratory and descriptive aim was chosen. The data collection methodology was composed of the pre-survey and the actual field survey which took place in the 31 regions of Côte d'Ivoire. 541 non-conventional mental health care facilities in Côte d'Ivoire were mapped, visited, examined with regard to some characteristics, and typologised according to their spiritual orientation.
Results The survey of non-conventional mental health care facilities provides a typology of the centres (Christian Prayer Camps, Traditional Healing Centres, Phytotherapy Centres, and Roqya Centres), the number of people with mental illness they treat, the educational or professional background of the facility leaders, and their attitudes towards possible cooperation with psychiatrically trained staff.
Conclusions A considerable number of non-conventional mental health care facility leaders expressed a desire or acceptance of cooperation with psychiatric organisations. If cooperation could be established and combined with training for non-conventional mental health care facility leaders, there is hope that an urgently needed greater state provision of outpatient psychiatric care might well meet with a willingness on the part of the non-conventional facilities to make use of this help, especially if it can be integrated into the care provided in the centres. The long-term objective is to establish and implement future collaboration and a real community mental health care policy in Côte d'Ivoire. A more detailed study is being planned, which will examine the situation of patients in non-conventional mental health care facilities and the actual possibility of cooperation.