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Chained and locked up, why some Nigerians turn to religion first to treat the mentally ill

“My mum thought it was something spiritual from her side of the family. So they took me for prayers with the hope that I’d be cured of whatever was wrong,” he instructed CNN.

“My aunt advised my dad that they should take me to camp for prayers against evil spirits. I remember I was laying down on the ground and people were all over me praying. I didn’t want to react but the prayer wasn’t working,” Godwin mentioned.

He added that after they realized on the method again residence from camp that the anticipated therapeutic did not occur, they introduced in one other pastor to pray for him at residence.

As a outcome, folks with perceived signs of issues are believed to be possessed or in want of unorthodox therapeutic from conventional therapeutic facilities, and at Christian and Islamic faith-based services.

At the time Godwin was 18 and he remembers being overwhelmed with worry, listening to voices and crying in misery.

“I felt irritation all over my body. The sound of the fan in the room made me paranoid, I felt like it was rolling too fast and it would cut off and kill me. There were so many confusing voices talking to me in my head,” he mentioned.

Godwin’s household physician ultimately referred him to a specialist after listening to about his signs, “that’s when we went to the psychiatric hospital,” he mentioned.

In his case, he was later recognized with paranoid schizophrenia and positioned on medicine. “I was so relieved to know what was going on with me. My parents too were relieved knowing it was nothing spiritual,” he mentioned.

Chained and locked up

Mental well being sickness is so poorly understood that in some circumstances, folks with these circumstances are chained and locked up in unorthodox services throughout the nation together with conventional therapeutic and spiritual facilities. According to a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), folks in these services are subjected to completely different types of abuse together with force-feeding them drugs and herbs and whipping as a part of their remedy.

A 22-year-old lady who suffered a psychological well being disaster after her mom’s dying instructed the human rights group that she had been held captive in a church for 5 months and denied meals as a part of a “spiritual cleanse” for her situation.

“I was tied with chains for three days straight so I could fast. For the three days, I had no food or water. It wasn’t my choice, but the pastor said it was good for me. Sometimes if they say I should fast and I drink water or take food, they (the church staff) put me on a chain,” she mentioned in the report. Similarly, an Islamic religion healer in northern Nigeria instructed HRW that he whips sufferers, leaving scars on their physique, as a method to ‘treat’ them.”If you are treating someone who is mentally unwell and he acts in a way that is causing a disturbance, you will have to treat him. Some of them might be talking to themselves or suffer from lack of sleep…. For some of them, getting enough sleep will help. For others, we need to whip them — once, twice … up to seven times,” he mentioned.

Dr. Nancy Orjinta, a resident psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Lagos, mentioned maintaining folks with psychological sickness in such services can impression their well being negatively and injury their vanity.

“I have seen patients who were chained for months battle with self-esteem issues. Keeping someone locked up will not only harm them physically, but they will start to feel low and dehumanized too,” she mentioned. She added that such circumstances can lead to post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD), an anxiousness dysfunction attributable to traumatic or distressing occasions.

Not sufficient psychiatrists

One of the causes folks go to spiritual and conventional therapeutic facilities for psychological sickness is a lack of information of psychological well being points in the nation, in accordance to Dr. Orjinta.

Dr. Orjinta, instructed CNN that in lots of circumstances, Nigerians search psychological well being care from unorthodox locations, particularly spiritual facilities earlier than contemplating going to the hospital.

However, delaying psychological care by not instantly going to hospital prolongs the time the affected person stays with out applicable care and “may create the worst outcome for the patient as they have more symptoms,” she mentioned.

“There is still a stigma around mental illness. People perceive it in a negative light and as a result they don’t want to address it if they have symptoms. They want to keep on hiding it,” she defined.

She additionally added there aren’t sufficient psychological well being professionals in the nation, making it tough to entry psychological well being care. For instance, with a inhabitants of greater than 200 million folks, there are solely 250 working towards psychiatrists in the nation.

“There is a disproportionate sharing of mental health professionals, we don’t really have them in rural areas. And if someone lives in such areas without mental health care, of course, they will find alternatives for care like traditional healers or churches,” Dr. Orjinta defined.

Clampdown on rehabilitation facilities

In latest occasions, authorities in Nigeria have rescued a whole lot of individuals held beneath inhumane circumstances in a clampdown on spiritual rehabilitation facilities.

In September 2019, for instance, police rescued greater than 300 males and boys from an Islamic faculty in Kaduna, northern Nigeria. Some of them instructed the police they’d been sexually abused and tortured by their academics. President Muhammadu Buhari additionally mentioned in October of the identical 12 months that he would look into the actions of some Islamic rehabilitation facilities, which have lengthy been accused of abuse.

But psychological well being advocates say this isn’t sufficient.

Hauwa Ojeifo, a psychological well being activist and coach instructed CNN that Nigeria wants sturdy laws that can set the requirements for psychiatric remedy.

Data on psychological well being in the nation is difficult to come by, however an estimated 20-30% of the nation’s inhabitants is affected by psychological issues, in accordance to a 2016 report in the Annals of Nigerian Medicine Journal. And in 2017, a World Health Organization report discovered that Nigerians have the highest incidences of melancholy in Africa, with greater than 7 million folks in the nation affected by melancholy. Ojeifo who can be the founding father of She Writes Woman, a non-profit centered on offering psychological well being help in the nation mentioned she desires a psychological well being invoice that can encourage psychological consciousness in the nation to be handed.She described Nigeria’s 1958 Lunacy Act, the present laws governing psychological well being in the nation as “outdated” and “discriminatory.”

Under the act, folks with psychological well being circumstances are allowed to be detained, even with out the provision of medical remedy.

“I don’t just want any mental health bill to be passed. I am very particular about the content of the bill too. I want it to be respectful and accommodate the rights of persons with mental health conditions,” she instructed CNN.

Mental well being consciousness

Mental well being consciousness is required to fight the widespread use of spiritual and conventional therapeutic facilities for psychological care, in accordance to Dr. Orjinta.

“The media needs to come in to report mental health without framing it in a bad or scary way like some do. The same way you can say someone has a problem with his leg, you should be able to say someone has a brain problem. It should be like every other illness,” she mentioned.

She added that she is optimistic Nigeria will ultimately get to a spot the place there’s a minimal stigma concerning psychological well being. “It won’t be drastic and it will require many people like the government, media, and religious institutions putting in the effort, but I am optimistic.”

Godwin who was initially taken to church for prayers says care exterior medical services shouldn’t be the first resort.

“There are drugs and medical facilities that can help with mental illness. I am not saying people who attribute it to spirituality are wrong, but I’d say there are other ways. Medicine is capable,” he mentioned.

He added that in his case, he wished he was taken to the hospital first for faster prognosis, earlier than being subjected to spiritual therapeutic.

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