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

October 10, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

In many parts of Nigeria, persons with mental illness often seek care from traditional and religious rehabilitation centers

Mental health illness is so poorly understood that in some cases, people with these conditions are chained and locked up in unorthodox facilities across the country including traditional healing and religious centers.

A 22-year-old woman who suffered a mental health crisis after her mother's death told the human rights group that she had been held captive in a church for five months and denied food as part of a "spiritual cleanse" for her condition.

Dr. Nancy Orjinta, a resident psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Lagos, said keeping people with mental illness in such facilities can impact their health negatively and damage their self-esteem.

One of the reasons people visit religious and traditional healing centers for mental illness is a lack of understanding of mental health issues in the country, according to Dr. Orjinta.

Dr. Orjinta, told CNN that in many cases, Nigerians seek mental health care from unorthodox places, especially religious centers before considering going to the hospital.

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 explained.

Ojeifo who is also the founder of She Writes Woman, a non-profit focused on providing mental health support in the country said she wants a mental health bill that will encourage mental awareness in the country to be passed.

Under the act, people with mental health conditions are allowed to be detained, even without the provision of medical treatment.

I want it to be respectful and accommodate the rights of persons with mental health conditions," she told CNN.

Mental health awareness is needed to combat the widespread use of religious and traditional healing centers for mental care, according 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.

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