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Scarred for Life: Mental Illness in the Eastern Congo by Patrick Meinhardt

According to the Mental Health Program, at least 15 million Congolese have mental disorders and lack the resources western countries have. A report from the “Organisation suisse d’aide aux réfugiés” (OSAR) states that drugs used in western countries are nowhere to be found in the DRC. Most families are unable to assume the expenses of the treatment, leaving most cases untreated or taken care by NGOs like the Brothers of Charity or Doctors without Borders. Lack of government support isn´t the only obstacle: Mental institutions have to deal with the conception most Congolese coming from rural areas have on mental illness. A conception based on old beliefs and witchcraft where sorcery or demoniac possessions are the source. Cases are brought to traditional healers or praying houses, leaving psychiatric facilities as the last call. Some families have to literally take away by force their beloved ones from praying houses so they can be properly treated. North Kivu, a province twice the size of Belgium with over 6 million inhabitants, only has one psychiatric facility. Misinformation and the lack of belief in modern medicine complicate the situation in Eastern Congo creating a public health concern.

Read the full story Patrick’s website

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