‘Doris Appiah, 57, has bipolar disorder. In her early twenties, she was sent to an overcrowded psychiatric hospital followed by a “prayer camp” to be treated. She stayed there for five years, at times tied to a wall or forced to fast. Her story is mirrored by thousands of mentally ill people across Ghana, according to a 2 October Human Rights Watch (HRW) report entitled Like a Death Sentence‘.
Unfortunately, this kind of treatment (or lack of treatment) is not unique to Ghana; similar stories can be heard elsewhere in Africa; with severely constricted budgets, mental health is low on the list of government priorities. The churches have therefore stepped into the breach, forming overcrowded ‘prayer camps’ where care is woeful and practices are questionable to say the least. Although prayer in particular and spirituality in general can have a positive effect on outcomes, this can never be a substitute for clinician led treatment.
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