“No Matter How the Child Is, She Is Hers”

Practical Kinship in the Care of Mental Illness in Kintampo, Ghana

Ursula M. Read


Few studies have explored in detail family responses to mental illness in sub-Saharan Africa and the impact on the household. This article draws on ethnographic research in Kintampo, Ghana, to illustrate the social, emotional, and practical consequences of prolonged mental illness. Drawing on Bourdieu’s notion of “practical kinship” this article suggests that the affective and moral force of the family ideal inspires a concern to maintain care for a relative with mental illness against the threat of social exclusion. However such care can stretch family resources to breaking point. The impact on families and their important role in maintaining the social personhood of those with mental illness suggests the need to foreground initiatives to enhance family support in mental health services.

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