Ms. Desire Lavigne Karakire’s testimony, shared on her Facebook wall on 11th July 2020

We remained locked up for extended periods against our will, up to five or six months for some patients. If one acted out or became too vocal about their rights and the rights of others, they were threatened with extended stays — if they were lucky.

Otherwise, they were usually subdued with strong injections that made them sluggish sloths of their former selves. For me, they denied my family access to me for two months, citing volatile “emotions”, as I have now been told by my family.

As the writer I am, I wrote all through my stay at the center. I documented their numerous abuses journalistically, cautioning them and calling them to book on occasion by mouth and long letters, letting them know that we were not sick enough to not be watching when people entrusted to care for a vulnerable group were meting all manner of incredulous abuse unchecked.

It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter beyond making an enemy out of the center’s authorities and putting a target on my back. On three occasions they ransacked my suitcases looking for what I imagine were my notes on their violence against their patients. Once they body-searched me.

In a frantic effort to protect my work, I sealed up all my notes into an envelope I handed to a departing patient and pleaded with them to take it out and keep it safe for me. I didn’t think they were capable of it to outrightly break the law and confiscate work I had made clear to them in a June 9th letter that was journalistic work.

Anyway, they intercepted the envelope and held it hostage. That same night they descended on me in my bed asleep at night, three gentlemen, a female counsellor and a nurse, and punched an antipsychotic injection into me.

The Head of Clinical Counselling led that night’s operation, steaming from his mouth of alcohol and cigarettes. He came to me days later, his face black with shame and false remorse, and apologised profusely.

He went on to inform me that my envelope of work was in his possession, and he imagines I won’t be needing to press the matter of my assault any further (I had already dished out a series of letters holding him to account). I told him I wouldn’t, if he would return my work to me intact. He promised he would. I have now left the center, but he still hasn’t given it back to me.

In a file where the welfare discussions at the facility were minuted in community meetings dating as far back as 2018, previous patients decried intimidation by the center’s staff and management, noted anger outbursts from staff towards patients, the use of privileged patient information to intimidate them, breaches of confidentiality, unethical searches of patients’ property, and distasteful quality of food.

It also detailed patients’ meetings about denied external communication, unclear program dates and arbitrary extensions, denied and delayed medications, multiple requests for doctors that were not honoured, recording of patients without their permission for promotional materials, and misinformation of family members about patients’ behaviour and program compliance and progress.

*** End of Part IV ***

We decided to publish Desire’s testimony in the hope that it will be read by those with mental ill-health and who are searching for the right care so that they and their loved ones may make informed decisions.

Sharing of Desire’s testimony is in line with our empirical evidence based advocacy work. We wish for her testimony to come to the attention of duty bearers within civil society and as well as government departments.

We desire that her testimony will provoke action, including but not limited to, investigation of mental healthcare service providers; ensuring that they do right by their patients; and ensure that a valid mental healthcare policy is in place and that it is fully implemented and enforced.

It is important to share that the African Retreat Center (ARC) did respond to Desire’s testimony thus:

A response which Desire characterized as: “the last kicks of a dying horse.”

5 thoughts on “Mental Health Rehab from Hell – Part IV

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