Mental illness rampant in Somalia

Mental illness rampant in Somalia

By Liz Lockhart

Whilst we lament adequate treatment, bad attitudes to mental illness and the stigma still attached to it we should stop and consider just how far our mental health provision has come.  And it is also encouraging to realise that things are still changing and good research findings are being published nearly every day which should help with future treatment.

Whilst the UK has been progressing steadily in all aspects of mental health awareness and treatment we realise that other parts of the world are still sadly lacking.

A picture printed in the Atlanta Health, Diet and Fitness News really stopped me in my tracks.  The picture of a 25 year old man chained and shackled in a hallway with 25 other patients at clinic for the mentally ill in Mogadishu, Somalia. 

He is wearing torn, dirty clothes which hang from his skinny form as he whispers under his breath and spits at all around him. 

Doctors say that Hassan Qasim watched as his brother and sister were killed in front of him and that he was abducted and tortured by gunmen.  Shortly after these horrific events Qasim was found wandering the streets naked, lashing out at passers-by.

At night in Mogadishu the sound of gunfire crackles every few seconds and mortars rip out of the sky.

‘We believe every bullet or mortar will cause more people to become mentally ill; said Dr. Abdirahman Ali Awale who is a Somali psychiatrist.  The World Health Organisation estimates that one in three Somalis have suffered from some kind of mental illness which is among the highest rate in the world.

A World Health Organization report found that Somalia has only three psychiatrists and no psychologists working at its five main mental health facilities.

As a result some Somalis have been chained up in mental wards for as long as eight years according to the WHO.  At one mental health facility almost 50 per cent of patients were chained.

Need I go on?  I think the picture is bad enough already.  While we know that our treatment has a long way to go in UK, let us spare a thought for those people across the world who have even less support and information available.


Relevant links

 Mental illness not cause of violent crime

10 year wait for therapy condemed

Mental ward 'a disaster zone', inquiry was told

Three-year-olds to be tested for mental health problems

Mental health awareness week 2011 - sleep matters 


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