McMurry Grad Studying Mental Health Issues in Ghana

Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: McKenzie Flowers Fergus, a McMurry University graduate, is actively engaged in various human rights, anti-discrimination, sustainable development, and peace-building organizations. After graduating with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from Yale University, she was awarded a Russell Berrie Fellowship in a program that collaborates globally with interfaith institutions and universities to promote interreligious dialogue. She also received her degree in Interfaith Studies at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome. McKenzie is a Ph.D. Candidate in the World Christianity program at the University of Edinburgh. 

The following article written by Kim A. Lawton for Yale Today is about Abilenian and McMurry University graduate McKenzie Flowers Fergus. She currently is living in Ghana conducting research on mental health issues, including treating patients in “prayer camps.”

By Kim A. Lawton
Yale Divinity School

In 2018, McKenzie Flowers Fergus ’18 M.Div. was working in the Yale Medical School Library when she “stumbled upon” an article describing the suffering of Ghana’s mentally ill population. The report, co-authored by Yale Professor of Psychiatry Robert Rosenheck, detailed how thousands of mentally ill men, women, and children are confined in Christian prayer camp sanitariums and chained to inanimate objects such as trees and walls, often forced to fast, pray, and participate in other faith-healing practices. The study found that even when prayer camp residents were given medications as part of a clinical trial, it did not reduce the amount of time they spent in chains.

As a divinity student, Fergus was determined to learn more. “I realized that these people who are in chains, and the staff as well, are looking at this issue through a religious angle,” Fergus said in a recent Zoom interview. “Yet there are no studies in the religious studies field on this topic.”

Today, Fergus is living in Accra, Ghana, researching the country’s mental healthcare landscape. She is leading a quantitative and qualitative project for the nonprofit Basic Needs-Ghana, while simultaneously gathering research data for her Ph.D. thesis at the University of Edinburgh.

Click here to read the entire article from Yale Divinity School

McKenzie Flowers Fergus

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