The Chains of Mental Illness in West Africa

Here is what poorly treated (i.e. no medications, or very limited access to medicine and no therapy) schizophrenia looks like in Africa:

The church grounds here sprawled through a strange, dreamlike forest. More than 150 men and women were chained by the ankle to a tree or concrete block, a short walk from the central place of worship. Most were experiencing the fearsome delusions of schizophrenia. On a recent visit, some glared, while others slept or muttered to themselves. A few pushed to their feet and gestured wildly, their cries piercing the stillness.

and another related article:

Interesting discussion with the photographer too:

Q. What special considerations are there in photographing people who are mentally ill?

A. I grew up, from as far back as I can remember, with psychiatric problems in the family: My grandmother had schizophrenia; she spent time in institutions; she was medicated most of her life. Now, late in life, my dad is having some problems. So for me, this is real. It’s all too real.

But that should in no way affect how I do my job, whether I have some personal connection. No, that’s too easy. We all should be sensitive, regardless of whether we have something like this in our family.

These are humans, not just props for pictures. We have to be acutely aware of that, and it’s precisely because they are human that makes it particularly important to show the situations they are in. If not the camera, who then?


What horror. I can’t even…

We’re so lucky here.

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That is the most awful thing I’ve ever read. I am so glad I was born in America.