Background. Recent anthropological studies have
documented the importance of understanding
the relation of culture to the experience of mental illness. The use of
interviews that elicit
explanatory models has facilitated such research, but currently
available interviews are lengthy and
impractical for epidemiological studies. This paper is a
preliminary report on the development of
a brief instrument to elicit explanatory models for use in field work.
Method. The development of the SEMI, a short interview
to elicit explanatory models is described.
The interview explores the subject's cultural background, nature
of presenting problem, help-seeking behaviour, interaction with physician/healer and beliefs related
to mental illness.
Results. The SEMI was employed to study the explanatory
models of subjects with common mental
disorders among Whites, African-Caribbean and Asians living in London and
was also used in
Harare, Zimbabwe. Data from its use in four different ethnic
groups is presented with the aim of
demonstrating its capacity to show up differences in these varied settings.
Conclusions. The simplicity and brevity of the SEMI allow
for its use in field studies in different
cultures, data can be used to provide variables for use in quantitative
analysis and provide