This Unreported World comes from Sierra Leone where, ten years after one of the most brutal conflicts in recent history, thousands have been left severely traumatised. Reporter Seyi Rhodes and director George Waldrum find that the population, which has witnessed rape, torture and public executions, is served by just one psychiatrist.
The Unreported World team begin their journey in the capital, Freetown, at a physiotherapy centre for amputees.
Hacking off limbs was used by rebel groups in the war to instil terror across the population. The patients say that despite being treated for their physical injuries the horrific memories still haunt them. They find it hard to express themselves as there are no words in Krio for depression or anxiety - all they know is that sometimes things get so bad their lives just grind to a halt.
Rhodes and Waldrum move east to the former rebel stronghold of Kailahun. There, Laurence, a local charity worker, takes them to a former rebel prison known locally as the 'Slaughter House' which is still covered in bloodstains from the numerous murders that happened there. He says that 50 per cent of those he helps have attempted suicide.
One of them, Sion, is an ex-child solider who was forced to kill at just 10 years old. He says he still hears the screams of the people he murdered - and last year he tried to take his life. Thousands of other former child soldiers have fallen into substance abuse as they try to blunt their memories.
The team returns to Freetown to discover a government mental health system that is almost non-existent, revolving around the country's sole psychiatrist working in the only psychiatric hospital. Most patients are chained to their beds and heavily sedated.
The doctor says that 80 per cent of people needing help believe that mental illness is caused by evil spirits, so they turn to the church and traditional healers. With an estimated 400,000 mentally ill people in the country, offering a cure has become good business. Most visit one of the country's 4000 traditional healers.
The team visits one of them on the outskirts of town, where an extremely disoriented patient is chained to the ground. Patrick's memories go back only as far as the war, everything else is a blur. Rhodes watches as the healer administers his daily treatment - perfume poured in both his eyes and nose. It may seem like harsh treatment but Pa Barrie is incredibly popular and gets through 15 patients a day.
The team ends their journey in the village of Bombali and the home of 20-year-old Almani. His family have run completely out of options. They don't know what he is suffering from but he has been violent and abusive since the war. They've spent large sums of money on traditional healers and have nothing left to take him to the psychiatric hospital. They tell Rhodes the emotional stress has ripped the family apart and they are so desperate they would abandon him if they could.
Alamni's family, like so many in Sierra Leone, are damaged to the point of despair. Even though a decade has passed, it's clear the nation hasn't yet begun to cope with the psychological consequences of its civil war.
|Friday 03 April 2009||Channel 4|
|Friday 03 April 2009||7.35PM||Channel 4|