TagWest Africa

Reading of the Week: The Best of 2015 — Books, Papers, and Hope

From the Editor

This will be the last Reading of the Week for 2015. (The Readings will resume in a fortnight.)

A bit of housekeeping: the Reading of the Week is a labour of love. There is no industry support for this project – or, in fact, any funding. Still, it’s hardly my project. Many readers (particularly residents) suggested papers and made comments over this past year. I’m also deeply grateful for the support of several colleagues; Drs. David Goldbloom and Mark Fefergrad deserve particular mention. And my father and wife have been great editorial supports.

It’s a Reading of the Week tradition to close the year by highlighting the best of the past 12 months.

Looking over the Readings of this year, I’m struck by the diversity of the publications that I could draw selections from. Sure, the Readings of 2015 included papers from The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA Psychiatry. But they also included moving personal essays that were published in newspapers; The Economist (yes, The Economist) covered mental illness and the burden of disease well and thoughtfully; the best articles on global psychiatry appeared in The New York Times.

It wasn’t that long ago that we hoped that discussion of mental illness would move out of the shadows. Today, slowly but surely, it is. And so, 2015 closes after 48 Readings and on this hopeful note.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Psychiatry and West Africa

KPOVÉ, Togo — The church grounds here sprawled through a strange, dreamlike forest. More than 150 men and women were chained by the ankle to a tree or concrete block, a short walk from the central place of worship. Most were experiencing the fearsome delusions of schizophrenia. On a recent visit, some glared, while others slept or muttered to themselves. A few pushed to their feet and gestured wildly, their cries piercing the stillness.

Until this year, Koffi Gbedjeha, 45, a carpenter and father of four, was one of them — a resident of the Jesus Is the Solution prayer camp here, shackled like the others, his family and camp staff members said. For more than two years, his youngest sister, Akossiwa, 27, tended to him. Rising early each morning, she walked along a cool red-earth path to the human forest; each day, amid the stirring bodies and clinking chains, she emptied her brother’s chamber pot, swept the ground and cooked his meals over a charcoal fire.

So begins a series of articles on mental illness in West Africa.

This week’s Reading: “The Chains of Mental Illness in West Africa” by Benedict Carey, which was published earlier this month in The New York Times.

The selection may seem a bit unusual – Readings, after all, usually draw from journals, not from the Sunday paper. But Carey’s reporting is unusually lucid. If you haven’t read his article, I invite you to read it; if you saw this before, it’s worth re-reading.

You can find the article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/health/the-chains-of-mental-illness-in-west-africa.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Benedict Carey Continue reading