Monday, September 16, 2013

The Madness of Capitalism

The only psychiatrist, Dr Egip Bolsane, working in the African country of Chad has his work cut out to convince patients their issues are medical, rather than spiritual.

"Public opinion here thinks that it means something is really wrong in your head, it might be because you're possessed. We need to demystify the more or less diabolical image of psychiatry."

Mental health problems are poorly understood by the majority of Chadians who tend to conceptualise illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia as having a spiritual, rather than a medical cause. Many people believe in the existence of witchcraft and curses, and phrases such as having a "hot head" or persistent headaches are often euphemisms for much more serious problems.

It is easy to see people whose mental health issues have been left untreated, and whose families can no longer cope, living rough on the streets of the capital. The biggest obstacles to changing attitudes to mental health - and getting people to understand that it is an illness and not possession - is lack of education.

"Mental health issues are not talked about in society," he said. "I often find when people come to see me that they don't know how to discuss their problems with anyone."

"The human being is not a machine which can just be easily repaired. Trying to understand the full range of the human experience, how emotion links to health, is one of the most exciting and challenging things anyone can do," he said, explaining his motivation and dedication.

Chad’s 12 million people have lived through many years of war and have enormous need for psychiatric help. Chad endured a seemingly unending succession of civil wars, rebellions and coups which have left many thousands of people traumatised. Under the 1982-90 brutal dictatorship of Hissene Habre some 40,000 people disappeared and many more thousands were tortured and imprisoned without charge. Both rebel groups and the national army are known to have persistently used child soldiers.

Dr Bolsane believes this background helps to explain what he's observed about the occurrence of certain illnesses. "I have observed that cases of schizophrenia here are much more common that you would find elsewhere, and my theory is that it's linked to what the country has gone through." He has also noticed unusually high numbers of cases of paranoia, possibly brought on by substance abuse, and stress within family relationships.

Very few of these people have ever received professional medical help. Anyone wishing to study psychiatry still has to go to France. In a country which is currently battling an outbreak of malaria with 14,0000 new cases over just a few weeks, where polio and measles are still very real threats to children, and where the under-five mortality rate is 169/1000 live births, it is easy to see how resources will not be directed at mental health issues.

Dr Bolsane is disappointed that the country's new found oil wealth has not contributed more towards improving all aspects of health provision in Chad - the country has earned some $10bn from oil sales in the last 10 years but many of the country's hospitals are still in a terrible state.


Anonymous said...

No mention that this article is lifted from the BBC, please please refrence properly or you could end up in trouble!!

ajohnstone said...

i did actually provide a link to the BBC article for anyone caring to check the accuracy of the quotes used, if you look again. However, I declined to provide free advertising to them by naming it as a source.

i have no respect for the BBC or its supposed journalistic integrity as they frequently act as conduits for pro-war propaganda and fail to challenge government claims therefore i feel no guilt that plagiarise them. They are indeed the Establishment's mouth-piece.