"CONDEMNED - Mental health in African countries in crisis"
The physical evidence of a country in crisis is marked on every wall, less easy to discern are the psychological scars. But after decades of brutal war, they run deep. Mogadishu, Somalia. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says 1 in 3 Somali’s suffer from some kind of mental illness. From the camps for Internally Displaced People dotted around the region to the bombed out streets of Mogadishu is a generation of Somalis who’ve only known war, famine, displacement, and loss. The most common response though is forcible restraint. The use of chains in homes – or as is more common in huts or under trees outside the home - to restrain a family member with a mental illness is widespread. WHO says that in the last decade 90% of the treated patients it surveyed were subjected at least once in their lifetime to chaining. Chaining patients is seen as an alternative medication, which not only leaves the patients stigmatized but also causes physical injuries on hands and legs. Some of the chained patients end up committing suicide. The person is usually chained not only during the ‘acute crisis’ but throughout his or her life. To say there is a skills shortage in mental health practitioners in Somalia would be an understatement. WHO say there are only 3 psychiatrists in the whole region and that their skill levels are insufficient. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos. May, June 2011, Somalia.