In Ghana, people suffering from mental health problems have historically been sent to prayer camps as a method of treatment. In these prayer camps, they are often shackled to trees and left there. Sometimes for years on end. The year 2017, the government of Ghana pledged to enforce a ban on shackling, a brilliant advancement for the people of Ghana as this promise helps to protect the human rights of all Ghanaians.
Even though shackling is now illegal, hundreds of people with mental health problems, either real or perceived, remain shackled or confined in prayer camps.
WHAT IS A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM?
Mental health problems are no less normal than physical health conditions, and can affect anyone. A mental health problem is not the fault of the person who is affected. There are many different types of mental health problems, and they can become very serious long-term conditions. Many people who experience mental health problems can overcome them or learn to live with them, in the same way that they can get over physical health problems. The earlier they get help, the better.
DOES SHACKLING HELP SOLVE MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS?
Some mental health problems are not completely curable, but all mental health problems can be helped by a professional. Doctors are able to improve the mental health of a patient by helping them work through their problems, whilst maintaining their dignity and respecting their rights. Meanwhile, shackling takes away the freedom of the patient, leaving no path to improvement or recovery.
Everyone has the right to freedom, and shackling takes this away. Furthermore, shackling causes the patient to feel terrible pain, as they are physically tied down. It does not make much sense to remedy an existing suffering by adding more suffering to it. This is a form of torture, and it is extremely degrading for the patient who has to endure it.
The head of Ghana’s Mental Health Authority, Dr. Akwasi Osei, said that “people [with] mental health conditions are human beings like us, and we should completely respect their human rights,” and we can do this by helping them to access treatment that will help support them in their recovery. Shackling is not a humane or productive way of dealing with it, and we should work together to make sure that practices like this are limited.
People with mental health conditions are just like other human beings, they are people who are often able to make a very valuable contribution to society. However, shackling prevents them from ever being able to make the contributions they are capable of.