When countries well-known for the quality of their mental health treatments are called to mind, Afghanistan is not likely to be among them. Indeed, the country so often depicted as being plagued by insurgency and hotly contested political and social issues is still emerging in terms of its medical and psychological offerings to citizens, and as many of the nation’s larger cities move towards implementing new technologies and methods, a growing divide between the new and the traditional is being felt by those with mental health issues and their families. Details have surfaced about classic Afghani shrines, or religious centers that tend to people with mental health issues, who are often stigmatized.
Receiving a poor diet of bread and pepper and involuntarily chained to walls or trees in warm weather, the “clients” at these mental health shrines are typically subjected to a forty-day ordeal, after which it is expected that they will achieve personal understanding and peace and a newfound dedication to a higher power. While some professionals and community members praise the efficacy of the shrines-–some clients of modern hospitals are removed by their families and taken to the more traditional sites–others suggest that the questionable treatment is an unethical practice that should step aside for modern mental health care.
As conflicts continue in Afghanistan, the number of citizens who encounter mental health difficulties is likely to rise, and the need for adequate and meaningful treatment services is bound to become more pressing. Whether the country will fully embrace accepted modern standards of care or continue to keep some clients firmly rooted to the past remains to be seen, though many outside the country are likely hopeful that Western-supported efforts to modernize health care will play a major role in development.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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