The patients of the Maria Josefa Recio Step Down Unit at the Saint Benedict Menni Mental Health Center celebrated Christmas with a special dinner and gift giving –some of them did not remember to ever have had one–. These are happy and joyful moments, but behind their smiles and gestures of enjoyment remain hidden personal stories that talk about the exclusion and marginalization suffered by mentally ill people in Liberia and other African countries.
One of our patients is a 36-year-old woman whose relatives believed she is possessed by the Devil. They took her to a church, where she was chained and parts of her body were burned. The scars of burns still are visible and also shows great deep scars on the wrists from the chains. She has not seen her children for years. She was abandoned in a hospital by the family with whom she lived, and she only knows of a sister who cares about her but lives far away and takes care of two of her children.