Ghana mentally ill chained up for months

2012-10-02 22:26
Ghana mental health patient. (File)

Ghana mental health patient. (File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Accra - Mentally ill patients suffer from severe abuse at psychiatric hospitals and so-called healing centres in Ghana, with many chained to trees and even denied water, a human rights group said on Tuesday.

Some 1 000 residents live in squalid, overcrowded quarters in Ghana's three psychiatric hospitals, according to Human Rights Watch. Patients face physical and verbal abuse, and some are given electroshock therapy without their consent, said the group's report.

The abuse is even worse in healing centres known as "prayer camps," which lack government oversight, it said.

Thousands of mentally disabled people in the West African nation are sent to the camps, usually by their family members to be "cured" by self-proclaimed prophets through miracles, prayer and fasting. In most prayer camps, residents are only allowed to leave when the prophet deems them healed.

At the Mount Horeb Prayer Camp earlier this year, about 120 of the 135 residents there were chained either to trees or to the walls inside cell-like rooms 24 hours a day, sometimes for months at a time, Human Rights Watch said. Most of the chains measured only 2m long.

"People had to bathe, defecate, urinate, change sanitary towels, eat, and sleep on the spot where they were chained," the group reported.

Medi Ssengooba, Finberg fellow at Human Rights Watch and one of the report's authors, urged Ghana's government to end abuses against people with mental disabilities.

"The conditions in which many people with mental disabilities live in Ghana are inhuman and degrading," Ssengooba said.

Ssengooba said researchers were disappointed to find the level of human rights abuse against the mentally ill in Ghana, which is one of the most progressive countries in Africa in terms of good governance and leadership.

Near starvation

Ghana's 2012 Mental Health Act went into effect in June and allows people with disabilities to challenge their detention in psychiatric hospitals. But the law does not apply to the prayer camps operating outside of government control.

Many families send their mentally ill family members to prayer camps because there are very few mental health providers in Ghana and almost all of them are concentrated near Accra, the capital.

Besides the three psychiatric institutions around Accra, Ssengooba said there are only four private facilities in the country and they are expensive. And in many rural areas, people equate mental illness with demonic possession, and only think there is a spiritual cure, Ssengooba said.

Yet many mentally ill people face bondage, near starvation, and an inability to challenge their confinement at the camps.

One man with a mental disability at Mount Horeb Prayer Camp told Human Rights Watch he was chained for one year without any treatment. He said: "I want to go home, but they don't discharge me and they don't give me any reason."

Doris Appiah, the treasurer of the Mental Health Society of Ghana, said advocates aren't asking the government to close the camps but instead to monitor them.

Tied to a tree

Appiah, 57, was a medical student in her early 20s when she was committed to a mental hospital with severe depression. After escaping from the hospital, her family put her in a prayer camp near the town of Kumasi, north of Accra, hoping for a quick fix.

She stayed in prayer camps for five years, and was tied to a tree with rope. She is now an advocate for mentally ill people in Ghana.

"People are sick and they are not blamed for being sick, but you are mentally ill and it's your fault. And we hear it over and over again. People say mentally ill people are a liability and we are a menace to society," she said.

"When you have mental illness you are considered sub-human, and that is the truth. You are carried places and things are done to you."

She said minimum standards at prayer camps need to be set by the government, and people in Ghana need to be educated about the causes of mental illness.

"Whether you are in chains or not, being mentally ill is like being incarcerated," Appiah said.

- AP
Read more on:    ghana  |  west africa  |  health
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
10 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!

How would you react if you had to share a lift with this guy?

 
 

Men24.com

This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!
SA’s Playboy Playmate of the year in action!
12 lies everyone accepts as fact

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. Now R221. Pre-order now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding a...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.