Not long ago, a suffering bunch was brought to my attention. Cases of mental illnesses in West Africa is tragic. Most families that have had any of their family members behaving in an unusual manner out of the blues, then periodically have constantly resolved to either sending them to witchdoctors…or church camps, their common diagnosis is being demon possession, where, unfortunately, they are chained to blocks or trees and left there till their healing. There are no ready facilities in their vicinities that they can go to for help. And the few that are there are either not affordable or inaccessible. Psychiatrists are wanting.

In their bondage, they may receive some attention from their family members in terms of food or a change of clothes (if they’re lucky) and the spiritual leader would be there to offer prayers, and occasionally organise public assemblies wherein they can gather donations to support the “prisoners”. “Prisoners” who are only released when there is a sign of healing. When the camp’s host feels that they’re better. Which, most of the time, the individuals still face many other recurring phases of the particular disorder they were trying to combat initially. They’re chained to trees, forced to live through all sorts of weather. No roof above their heads. I mean… something needs to change!

It is unfortunate that people have been forced to lead lives they had never imagined before. Lives that they do not even know what to do with. Lives they didn’t ask for. Forced into segregation and loneliness. To feeling unworthy of love, unworthy of care, unworthy of any social interactions. Filth. Stigma. Unworthy of themselves. Their well-being. Their mental health.

It is even more unfortunate that mental health in many parts of the world, and Africa (which I feel deserves a distinct mention), have put such low importance on mental health. With an extremely minute percentage of the annual national budget directed towards the same. And the results and evil.

People are forced to live lives like animals, in chains. Literally bound with chains.
See for yourself:

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/health/the-chains-of-mental-illness-in-west-africa.html

I am out of words, really. I don’t know what to say. It’s horrific. It’s detestable. People need help. We need to reach beyond ourselves, to not only massacre the ignorance and the stigma, but to also become more concerned – genuinely concerned – and purposefully driven to, in our small ways, each of us, to do something different about mental health. Driven by love and compassion. Humanity.

If it includes raising awareness or volunteering at a centre… Understanding our fellow human beings, that they too are human, and they deserve better than chains. They need help. We need the means and resources.

(I don’t feel like I have articulated this as well as I should, but… I cannot even figure out how to put whatever is in my head down in writing. Strong feels, delivery wanting.)

Mental Health is important. Mental Health should be a priority. A psychological disorder is not an evil spirit. We need to be aware of these things. We need to do something about mental health. Just because my wounds are not physical, it doesn’t mean I don’t need to see a doctor. Mental Health is a real thing!

As long as our brothers and sisters are still in chains, we too are in chains. The Chains of Mental Illness. Let us seek to understand. Let’s yearn to learn how to live with them. Mental health should be a concern for us all. From the very depths of our hearts.

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