JOHANNESBERG, SOUTH AFRICA – For nearly a year, Benjamin Billal was chained to a rock.
“I was taken to a faith healing center by my grandmother and my mother,” Billal told journalists by video link from Monrovia, Liberia on Tuesday. “There, I was shackled. I was chained to a rock, where I stayed for about 11 months. There, there was no food. They gave us food at will — when they feel like giving you food, they gave you food. And there, we had no freedom moving around. You want to move around, you move around with chains.”
What did he do to get this treatment? According to doctors at Liberia’s only mental health facility — where he was finally taken after 11 months of being shackled — he was suffering from depression.
Shackling, restraining and detaining patients with mental health conditions is a sadly common practice in Africa, with