Invest in mental health: Right of torture victims to psycho-social rehabilitative services

It’s a common story here. After 20 years of war and violence, Somalia has one of the world’s highest rates of mental-health disorders. An estimated one-third of its eight million people are affected by some kind of mental illness, yet there are only three trained psychiatrists in the entire country to care for them, according to the World Health Organization.
Many Somalis with mental disorders are simply chained to beds or imprisoned in criminal jails for years, leaving them with permanent trauma and physical injuries. “Degrading and dangerous cultural practices such as being restrained with chains are not only widespread but also socially and medically accepted,” the WHO said in a recent study of Somalia’s mental health care. (PDF)

World Mental Health Day is each year the designated day to promote awareness of mental health issues worldwide. But it’s more than that. At World Without Torture, we promote every torture victims right to holistic rehabilitative services. What is holistic?

Rehabilitation after suffering from acts of torture is a long and complicated process. Depending on the acts of torture, it can involve lengthy medical treatment. But, as importantly, torture victims also have the right to full psycho-social treatment and rehabilitation.

Many victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes symptoms such as flashbacks (or intrusive thoughts), severe anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, depression and memory lapses. Mental illnesses can be completely debilitating to a victim of torture.

This year, the theme of World Mental Health Day is ‘investing in mental health,’ and during the current trend of austerity measures, spending cuts, and financial instability, we must remember to not only maintain our current funding for mental health services, but increase it. Treatment through psycho-social, contextually-based rehabilitation is a basic right of every victim of torture – a right that many have yet to see fulfilled.

As conflicts around the world continue and states continue to torture, we must reaffirm our commitment and obligations to victims of torture and fund the holistic rehabilitative services that are every victim’s right.

UPDATE: Check out other blog posts for World Mental Health Day, compiled by PsychCentral

The consequences of torture reach far beyond the immediate pain (IRCT)
Mental illness ‘rampant’ in Somalia (Al Jazeera English)
Mentally ill are stigmatized, misunderstood and shackled in Somalia (Globe & Mail)
World Mental Health Day (World Health Organization)
2011 World Mental Health Day (World Federation of Mental Health)
Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder / PTSD (Health and Human Rights Info)


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  1. #1 by Kathy Morelli, LPC (@KathyAMorelli) on 12/10/2011 - 16:20

    Wow, thanks for bringing attention to this issue. Only 3 psychiatrists in the whole country? my goodness. the need is great.

  1. World Mental Health Day Blog Party, October 10, 2011 | World Mental Health Day
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