A six-week stay at a Hindu temple in India has produced thesame healing in patients with severe psychiatric disordersas a month-long course of standard drugs. A team led byRamanathan Raguram of the National Institute of MentalHealth and Neurosciences in Bangalore studied 31 people whostayed at the Muthuswamy temple between June and August 2000.
Six of the patients had been diagnosed with delusionaldisorders, 23 with paranoid schizophrenia and two withbipolar disorder. They had been suffering symptoms for anaverage of 71 weeks, and only one had received professionalpsychiatric care. At the end of their stays in the temple,their scores on psychiatric tests showed a 20% improvement,on average. This rate of improvement is what doctors expectfrom patients after four weeks of drugs like chlorpromazineand risperidone.
No specific healing rituals or ceremonies were performed forthem. They attended a 15 minute morning prayer session, thenspent the rest of the day helping out with the routine workof the temple.
So what healed them? “What they were given is tender lovingcare, in a non-threatening environment, in tune with theirown cultural beliefs, with the hope of recovery,” saysRaguram. “And in the history of psychiatry, these were theprinciples on which asylums were originally built.”
Assen Jablensky, of the University of Western Australia,says this type of healing doesn?t only occur in Hindutemples. “For example, a ‘treatment protocol’ in many wayssimilar to the healing temple of Muthuswamy has beenpracticed at the traditional therapeutic village of Aro inNigeria,” he says.
Raguram says the only problem with the study is that therewere no controls. “To prove the efficacy we needdouble-blind control studies, which is very difficult toconduct in such settings,” he says.
In India, many mentally ill people go to religious sitesthat are known for their healing. The Muthuswamy temple isbuilt over the tomb of a man who lived a century ago andwho, according to legend, could cure mental illness bytouching people with his hand. His descendants now run thetemple and invite patients to come there for free.
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To learn more, read July 9 news story ?Does Prayer Work?,click here.
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