Those With Psychological Disabilities Being Locked Away In Kenya

Mar 03, 2011
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Millions of people with psychological disabilities are hidden away — locked up and forgotten in Africa, many times by their families who have no help and no means to get them proper treatment.

In Nairobi, Kenya, horrible moans and cries float through the air from a tin shack. That pitiful shack is a 33-year-old man’s home, but it is much more like a prison cell. The man is “tied up to a steel bed frame with a piece of blue rope. He’s surrounded by pools of his urine, his mattress soiled and ripped to shreds.” And he’s been living like that for 30 years. CNN reported on Kenya’s citizen’s with mental health issues being locked up and forgotten; it was heartbreaking.

This is the story of Thomas:

In Kenya, where less than one percent of its health budget is spent on mental health, people fear those with psychological disabilities. Families can find no help, no respite, nothing and there is a huge stigma attached to caring for persons with mental health issues. Out of fear, many bus drivers will not allow individuals with psychological disabilities  on their buses which are how families transport to get medical care.

For those individuals with mental health problems that can pay for care at Mathare Hospital, the only psychiatric hospital in Kenya, both male and female patients are locked up like inmates. They are packed into terribly overcrowded dorms and drugged up so that they cannot do “even the simplest of tasks.”

The CNN crew was locked inside that hospital where they filmed a dead body on the floor. More of the story can be seen in the video below:

Otherwise, those with mental and physical disabilities are kept by their families, hidden away in dark and dirty conditions of utter poverty. Edah Maina, head of the Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped, says it is the only advocacy group or charity working to help those with mental health issues. She believes if the world knew how terribly neglected these people are, that some people would step up to help.

This is the story of Kennedy, a 17-year-old boy born with jaundice that led to cerebral palsy. He can’t walk, crawl, speak or use sign language. The article also mentions Thomas who is tied to a tree and seen in the first video posted here. The video below is the story of Joseph who has mental and physical disabilities with only his aging mother to try to keep them both alive.

It’s heartbreaking. CNN has even more if you want to learn more about. Grab a tissue.

Author: Tessa

  • Lisamuu

    i am a kenyan working in australia as a mental health nurse. very sad to see what happens to mentally ill patients in my own country……surely the government should do something to implement a better system to help our own people. its a shame to see this.

  • maria wahome

    No, the government is waiting for “helpers” rather than stepping up and doing what needs to be done for these citizens. These are the country’s responsibility.