Holistic Care of the Mentally Ill in Christian Healing Camps: Global Health Ministries' Pharmacotherapy Project in Madagascar

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in History



Major Advisor

Joanne Klein


Peter Buhler


Sandra Schackel


This thesis investigated Global Health Ministries' (GHM) unique, cross-cultural pharmacotherapy project in Madagascar. The project integrated Western psychiatric medications into treatment in a holistic Malagasy Christian healing ministry. Since 1988, GHM aided established overseas Lutheran healthcare institutions. A century of Lutheran missions in Madagascar enabled GHM to create pragmatic, innovative medical partnerships. Its pharmacotherapy project started in 1990 and continues today.

As a post-colonial medical mission story, this thesis addressed several evolving 20th century themes: the changes in post-colonial mission theory and practices, the medicalized treatment of mental illnesses, and the creation of a universal, transcultural psychiatry. Project successes were examined through the creation of GHM and its on-going work with the project. The project's history was personalized through the stories of the key American and Malagasy medical missionaries involved directly with the project and the role of the Malagasy healing ministry's spiritual leader.

GHM's pharmacotherapy project successfully brought together Western psychiatric diagnoses and treatment of mental illnesses and holistic care provided by Malagasy physicians and trained lay-ministers in Malagasy Christian healing camps. This case study focused on the incorporation of American psychiatric teaching through GHM's direct involvement in medical missions in Madagascar. This thesis demonstrated how mission work in foreign countries contributed to late 20th century trends toward change in American psychiatry's acceptance of the role religion plays in the lives of individuals and cultures. In the 1990s the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created a Committee on Religion, Spiritually, and Psychiatry and published new texts for American psychiatrists that included the importance of religion, culture, and ethnicity in relationship to mental illnesses.

Files over 30MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."