PIH’s New Podcast, Unchain, Now Available To Stream

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The podcast tells the story of Sierra Leone’s only psychiatric teaching hospital and inspires a conversation about mental health—in the past, present and future.

Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital is the only psychiatric hospital in the country. Partners In Health has invested in staff, resources and training to provide quality mental health care. (Photo by John Ra / PIH)

How is mental health connected to history? And what can one hospital teach us about it? In Unchain, a new podcast miniseries from Partners In Health, doctors, patients and historians in Sierra Leone tell the story of Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital—the oldest psychiatric hospital in sub-Saharan Africa—which marked its 200th anniversary this year.

This miniseries dives deep into Sierra Leone’s history—including slavery, colonialism and civil war—to explore how the past holds implications for mental health.

Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital—once an impoverished facility that, due to lack of resources, used chains to keep patients from harming themselves and others—tells a story of both trauma and transformation: how the past never fully leaves, but can inform our present and future.

Below, a selection of archival photos offer a special glimpse into the hospital’s past and present.

Until PIH partnered with the Ministry of Health to improve the facility, the hospital—then known as “Kissy Mental Hospital”—had no running water, electricity or medications. Because of this lack of resources, clinicians once turned to chains as a way to manage patient and staff safety. The facility was known by the derogatory name “Kissy Crazy Yard.” (Photo by Jon Lascher / PIH) 
Partners In Health began its work building and renovating the hospital in December 2017. PIH focused on resupplying the hospital with psychiatric medications and making major infrastructure improvements, including resourcing the facility with running water and electricity. (Photo by John Ra / PIH)
PIH co-founder and chief strategist Paul Farmer visited the hospital while renovations were underway. (Photo by Jon Lascher / PIH)
PIH’s infrastructure team led renovations of the hospital’s various buildings and wards, in order to provide comfortable, dignified accommodations to patients and staff. (Photo by John Ra / PIH)
Today, with PIH support, the hospital—now called Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital—is a clean, welcoming facility with electricity, running water, and medications. Chains are no longer used and have been replaced with soft restraints—which are rarely necessary. (Photo by John Ra / PIH) 
In June 2020, Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio visited the hospital for a ceremony to honour the renovations. (Photo by Jon Lascher / PIH)
President Bio, Minister of Health Dr. Alpha Wurie (right), and Umaru Sheriff, PIH program officer at SLPTH, unveil a new plaque commemorating the hospital renovations. (Photo by Jon Lascher / PIH)
Dr. Edward Nahim, who for decades was Sierra Leone’s only psychiatrist, attended an event at the hospital in November 2020, during which the hospital welcomed a new consultant psychiatrist–a promising sign for Sierra Leone’s mental health care field. (Photo by Maya Brownstein / PIH)
Haja Salimatu Bah, who is a 33-year-old Fulbe woman and from Guinea, was diagnosed with psychosis and was living at Kissy Psychiatric Hospital. Because she received proper medication and care, she’s since left the facility and now lives as an outpatient in a complex across the street from the hospital. She has a 10-month-old girl, Ceray Kamara. Leslie Friday, director of content, took a turn holding Ceray.

Listen and subscribe to the podcast on Spotify!

Article originally posted on pih.org

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