Treatment Of The Mentally Ill In A War Torn Country

706x410q70simon-somalia-subbedMThe other day I was reading a very interesting article about how mentally ill people are treated in Somalia where they have one of the highest numbers of mentally ill people in the world.

Somalia is a country that’s been plagued by war, famine and disease for decades. As a result, at least 1 out of 3 of their 10 million citizens are affected with a mental illness, including many former soldiers, some who joined various armies and fractions at as early as 7 years old and are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On top of all this, a very large number of the population uses a drug called Khat, which is a plant that you can chew and it causes psychedelic effects. It’s legal and addicting although it can cause both health and mental damage.

Things are further complicated for the mentally ill in Somalia because of the lack of qualified mental health professionals. Many of the mental health workers in Somalia have only received 3 months of training through the World Health Organization (WHO), which is advocating for the humane and proper treatment of the mentally ill in Somalia and worldwide.

WHO officials have rescued mentally ill people from some very poor conditions. Families who have mentally ill family members in Somalia often don’t know what to do or where to turn for help so they chain them to beds in the house or to trees in the yard, including one lady who was chained by her husband to a tree for eight years and gave birth to three children.

Faith and folklore also play a role in treating the mentally ill in Somalia, with individuals sometimes being flogged to get rid of the “evil spirits”, locked in a room with a hyena for three day stretches in hopes that the hyena would eat away the “evil spirits”, or simply just beaten to death by villagers.

The streets of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, are littered with the mentally ill sleeping under bridges or wandering around aimlessly chewing on Khat. Most of these individuals are suffering from some sort of mental trauma and are receiving no help.

Something that makes this story even sadder is that Somalia’s only trained psychiatrist died last year in a car crash. It’s one thing to have one psychiatrist in a country of 10 million people, but when that person dies and there is no one else to take their place, the fate of the mentally ill seems that much dimmer.

A lot of money is going into rebuilding Somalia and helping with diseases like HIV, TB and diarrhea, but not enough funding is going into helping the mentally ill.

I can only imagine that it will be nearly impossible to build a stronger country, economically, educationally and health wise, if such a large portion of the population is suffering from mental trauma.

Where will these workers come from? How can they function if they are suffering from a mental illness without being treated? How will the children who are suffering learn and grow up to be productive citizens?

This is only a snap shot about mental illness in a third world, war torn country and similar terrible conditions are played out everyday around the world.

Hearing about these deplorable conditions initially made me wish I could go to Somalia to help out, but I realized that it also makes me want to advocate even stronger for the rights and proper treatment of the mentally ill here in the United States and across the world through education, information and community service.

3 thoughts on “Treatment Of The Mentally Ill In A War Torn Country

  1. If wishes were dollars… Even here, knowing a person is mentally ill doesn’t matter unless there are services and dollars to pay for them. It is unbelievable in this country, as rich as we are, politicians can fight like cats and dogs and in the end do nothing. Our country’s political system is broken which means the infrastructure is at a standstill and nothing will be done yet again.

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