Background: Care of people with serious mental illness in prayer camps in low-income countries generates human rights concerns and ethical challenges for outcome researchers. Aims To ethically evaluate joining traditional faith healing with psychiatric care including medications (Clinical trials.gov identifier NCT02593734).
Method: Residents of a Ghana prayer camp were randomly assigned to receive either indicated medication for schizophrenia or mood disorders along with usual prayer camp activities (prayers, chain restraints and fasting) (n = 71); or the prayer camp activities alone (n = 68). Masked psychologists assessed Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) outcomes at 2, 4 and 6 weeks. Researchers discouraged use of chaining, but chaining decisions remained under the control of prayer camp staff.
Results: Total BPRS symptoms were significantly lower in the experimental group (P = 0.003, effect size -0.48). There was no significant difference in days in chains.
Conclusions: Joining psychiatric and prayer camp care brought symptom benefits but, in the short-run, did not significantly reduce days spent in chains.