Instead of receiving treatment and empathy to deal with her mental illness, an 8-year-old Chinese girl has instead lived a life of humiliation.
Zhao Ziyi from Louyang village in the Henan Province of China has spent six years tied to a tree, all because of her mental illness.
Her grandparents first tethered her to the tree in 2010 after she fell sick and allegedly began “attacking” people.
Zhao suffers from mental illness, which people in the poor village consider dangerous. Her disabled father works at a factory, while her mother, who is also disabled, lives away from the little girl.
The family is given a low income by the authorities, which makes it hard for them to afford proper treatment or send the child to a hospital. What the girl does throughout the day, if she is ever let loose or even if the grandparents allow her to come into the house to wash up, remains unclear.
Sadly, this Chinese girl is not the only one to go through life tied up in one place.
To this day, mentally ill people around the world are chained and tortured as a form of “treatment.” The entire practice stems from the fact that psychological illness is often poorly understood and not even considered a real problem. It is also considered extremely shameful and therefore looked down upon.
Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Somalia and China are only a few of the many countries where mental health is a topic brushed under the carpet. Along with a lack of awareness, there are hardly enough health facilities, and a stigma attached to the subject makes it even more difficult for people to battle their disorders.
Despite being in the 21st century, in many parts of South Asia, mental illness is often considered a result of black magic or possession by demons when, in contrast, it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Even institutions are maintaining the practice of locking up and chaining those with mental illness.
A report released by Human Rights Watch studies people with mental health conditions in Indonesia who have been confined to small areas with unsanitary conditions. Although the practice is illegal, it is still remains to be common.
These patients face physical and sexual violence, along with involuntary treatment — including electroshock therapy, seclusion, restraint and forced contraception.
“I have saved many, many patients who have been left to die. They have been tied to a tree and abandoned simply because they are mentally ill,” Abdirahman Ali Awale, commonly known as Dr. Habeeb, told the BBC World Service.
Having to live with mental illness is already a tough challenge. It is about time more people were educated about how to deal with such people, and bizarre practices of shunning them from the society and making them live in a hell hole are done away with forever.