A Thin Drawn Line: The Gender Gap in Mental Health

Mental illness is not perceived as an actual “illness”, and because of the stigma attached to it, families try to manage it at home. A 2008 ethnographic study in Sierra Leone found that families might take patients to traditional healers and herbalists to seek a solution. It is only when the patients then become violent that they resort to taking them to either the “kres yard” or City of Rest, a privately run Christian rehabilitation center. Finding a professional psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist, is impossible. They simply do not exist. As there is not enough information and education abut mental illness, patients and their families seek answers in church to find out the meaning of their psychosis. However, the churches are not always safe spaces for people with mental illness, which is often misunderstood as demonic possession by many evangelical churches. They face the same level of stigma and are categorized as “spiritually weak” since there is a myth that “good Christians” cannot be depressed or suffer from PTSD. Therefore churches cannot be used as a replacement for properly structured, sophisticated and professionally equipped mental health resources in Sierra Leone.


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