In The Chains of Mental Illness in West Africa, Benedict Carey explains the painful experiences that people with mental health issues go through in Togo West Africa. Carey states that the church grounds look like human forests because of the huge population of people chained on trees and blocks to restrain them from moving around. She further explains that in her recent visit, she saw the deplorable state of the people who suffered in chains as others lay on the ground, some murmuring to themselves and others crying with pain. The author gives an example of a 45-year-old man who is being taken care of by her young sister. The man believes that prayers can heal him as he asks the church people around if they ever pray for him.
Carey explains that people across the world struggle with issues of mental illness, but the state is worse in West Africa because psychiatrists are not known. Instead, chains are the last option for those people whose mental illness has taken a toll on them. The author further explains that religious camps suffice as psychiatric wards, and the only remedy is prayer. She explains that in Togo, where she recently visited, there are nine camps, and once known as "Jesus is the solution" is the largest one. She engages a psychiatrist to get more information, and the doctor explains that they have put in the effort to advise people out of the camps, but they do not heed.
In her article, Carey explains that mental health has been placed at the bottom of health needs both in Africa and globally because of other illnesses such as HIV, malaria, and measles, among others. The author, however, explains that it is until recently that the United Nations included the promotion of mental health as one of the development goals. According to the world health organization, less than one percent of countries budget has been dedicated to mental health. It is a statistic that indicates that there is less dedication to mental health issues in the continent.
Additionally, Carey elucidates that the burden of mental illness has been left to families of the sick patient, and they are being overwhelmed by huge costs which are majorly left to mothers, sister or daughters. She further says that several people with mental illness in West African cannot be easily seen because they have been taken to prayer camps by their families, and they are shackled in chains. Carey explains that in Togo, there are several prayer camps that have different characteristics based on the behavior and authority of the pastor. One of the shocking things is that through humanitarians from the neighboring country Ghana, it was reported that nearly two hundred people were distributed in the prayer camps, and none of the camps had a qualified physician.
Similarly, in Western countries, several people with mental illness have landed in prisons with over a hundred thousand coming from America alone. She also states that in Asia, just like Africa, the mentally ill are chained in shackles. The author explains that it is important to note that chaining people is against the disability rights act of the United Nations. Carey also explains that most of the people who have been chained in prayer camps have tried other alternatives that have failed, and they include herbal cures, medicine men, and other traditional healers.
Carey also explains that most of those who are mentally ill are believed to be demon-possessed and the reason they are taken to prayer camps to cast out demons. It is, however, unfortunate that a majority of them are abandoned in chains by their families, and the author gives an example of a forty-seven-year-old man. The lucky can be returned home by their families who seek medical help for them. The author not only paints the real picture of people suffering from mental illness but also that of the low rates of inclusion in the African mental health budget.
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