Hargeisa, Somaliland – Abdirisak Mohamed Warsame is one of just a handful of professionals working to improve the lives of people suffering from mental health problems in the Horn of Africa country, people who are largely neglected and often abused.
“Mental health is an abandoned field in Somaliland,” Warsame said.
There is no official data on the prevalence of mental health conditions in Somaliland but research points to high levels caused by – among other factors – the violence of the ongoing civil war, the widespread use of the stimulant khat, entrenched unemployment, and the lack of health services.
Some families, who often don’t understand the condition of their relatives, admit relatives to one of a small number of under-resourced public and private mental health facilities.
But in most centres, there are few or no professional staff who understand how to care for those with mental health conditions.
Chaining of patients is widespread – only the mental health ward at the Hargeisa Group Hospital is currently chain-free – and psychotropic drugs are often unavailable.