Photo @Hammond_Robin ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ There has been a lot in the media about refugees seeking safety in Europe. But very little about the mental health impacts of the trauma they’re fleeing or the asylum process. So I worked with @DoctorsWithoutBorders and @NatGeo to find a way to illustrate the psychological impact on a group of young refugees on the Greek Island of Lesbos. This is the text I wrote to introduce this project on the #inmyworld website (the website is linked in my bio): “Lesbos, Greece: a camp overflows with refugees and their desperation. Inhuman living situations and a snail-paced relocation process can drive the already traumatized towards depression and suicide - mental health issues that haunt a people with no home.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I wanted to make a series of images that spoke to the perilous journey the refugees had taken (thousands have died crossing the Mediterranean). And, importantly for this situation on Lesbos, I wanted to convey their isolation, despair, that they’ve been abandoned, stranded, waiting in limbo, while the politics of Europe (and Turkey, the US, Syria, Russia and others) decides their fates. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You can read the full story on the In My World website (link in bio) and to see more on mental health around the world please follow @onedayinmyworld
Photo @hammond_robin ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ “I realized if we put them in human conditions they become more human. It’s very easy, if you put people in inhuman conditions, in confined conditions, they become less human.” These are the words of mental health activist (and my hero) Ladislav Lamza. Until recently he was the director of a psychiatric institution in Croatia. Remarkably he was working as hard as he could to put himself out of a job by enacting a policy of deinstitutionalisation, where former residents move into apartments in the city and are supported, in their own homes, by trained staff. He started this work after realising the futility of the work they were doing: “I work here for 29 years, I never saw anyone rehabilitated… It (the institution) is a place to confine people - we feed them, keep them, and nobody gets well… They can’t find a reason for living, they can’t express their wishes, their free choice - they have all but they don’t have free will. When we give them choice of free will they rehabilitate. They get married, they get jobs, they have almost normal lives… Institutions make you believe you are worthless. Without names, without respect.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This image is of 83 year old Stjepan Getto and his wife 61 year old Jelica Getto. Stjepan stayed in an institution for 27 years before being given an apartment in the town of Osijek, Croatia. Jelica was institutionalised for 17 years. In care they were not allowed to have an intimate relationship. As soon they were released they got married. Stjepan says - “I have freedom here. In the institution it is impossible to have the chance to recover.” And now? - “I have the right to love.” ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You can read the full story on the #inmyworld website (link in bio). Please keep sharing and commenting (it’s really important that mental health is talked about) and, of course, please follow @onedayinmyworld
Photos @Hammond_Robin ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Following on from the last two posts about chaining of people with mental health conditions, I wanted to share this work I made on mental health in Ghana. I did the story with Brian Goldstone (@bdgoldstone) for Harpers Magazine (@harpersmagazine). If you want to understand the complexities and challenges of mental health care in developing countries, and the anguish of families who seek help for relatives, please read this excellent article. You can find it on the #inmyworld website (link in my bio) and scroll 4 stories to the right and click on ‘Possession.’ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Of the 2.4 million Ghanaians living with mental health conditions only 3 percent are receiving care at medical facilities (WHO). Filling the void are thousands of prayer camps offering a sanctuary from stigma, and the promise of a cure. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ This series images is of 25 year old Odeneho Samson who is living with a mental health condition and has been restrained with a leg iron at Nazareth Prayer Camp in Akroso in Ghana. Samson had been in the camp for two weeks when I cam across him. Stephen Asante, a psychiatric nurse, was travelling with me around Ghana, visiting prayer camps (@stephen7asante). Stephen’s reaction was similar to mine (expressed in previous posts) - anger! He was deeply distressed. Stephen took it upon himself to assist Samson by getting him medication and setting up a support structure within the camp to assist Samson with his care. You can see Stephen in one of these images overseeing the prayer camp workers removing the leg iron restraining Samson. Stephen is a deeply religious man. He believes in the power of prayer to heal. He also believes in medicine and counselling. He has now set up a not for profit organisation to educate Ghanaians about mental health in the hope that these physical restraints are no longer used and that appropriate care can be provided. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ You can find more on this story and others about mental health at @onedayinmyworld
Photo @Hammond_Robin. Yesterday I posted a series of pictures from a prayer camp in Togo. In that post I spoke about a boy tied to a stick in a refugee camp in Somalia. Someone asked if I would post that picture. These are the notes from that day: "This is 13 year old Ahmed Adan Ahmed. He spends his days walking in circles, or sitting running his hands through the sand at his feet. For 10 years he has been tied to a stick under the tarpaulin of a tent in a camp for Internally Displaced People in Galkayo. His mother Fawzia sees no other option – if she doesn’t tie him he will run away and she won’t be able to care for his siblings. Galkayo, Puntland, Somalia. May 2011.” To see more of my early work on mental health in the coming weeks follow @onedayinmyworld
Photos @Hammond_Robin. I spent a lot of 2018 angry. The New Year’s resolution I’m trying on this 1st of January is 'to have compassion.’ I say this as I share images that have made me mad. These photographs are from northern Togo where people with mental health issues have been chained up and tied to trees at a prayer camp. They had been brought by relatives for healing through prayer. Many had been there, locked up, for months. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’ve photographed the chaining of people with mental health conditions before. It has often made me angry. But I remind myself of the 12 year old boy I photographed in a refugee camp in Somalia in 2011. In a tattered tent, he was tied to a stick that had been hammered into the sandy earth. He’d been tethered this way since he was three years old. I met his mother. I was angry. But she taught me that with understanding (instead of anger), I might find compassion. She had five children, she told me, and no support. She had a stark choice - she could take her son off the rope and care for him 24 hours a day - but then her other four children would starve. Or she could tie him up - and feed them all. What does a parent do under these circumstances? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In Togo, the families that allowed their relatives to be chained were not cruel - they were hoping their loved one would be healed. And while they waited for that healing, their brother, son, sister, mother needed to be kept in the camp. Perhaps, here, chaining is not an abuse. Perhaps, in places where options are few, this apparently barbaric act, is actually an act of love. I wish chaining would stop. But until mental health becomes the global priority it should be, desperate families will do whatever it is they feel they need to do - even if it seems cruel. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Maybe we should all a bit more angry that mental health is so neglected around the world, and that families have to resort to this kind of ‘care.’ #InMyWorld is designed to ensure people living with mental health issues are seen, heard and valued. One small way you can help with that is by following @onedayinmyworld. Thank you, and Happy New Year.
Photos @Hammond_Robin Thank you everyone for an amazing 2018! I’m told these were the most liked posts of the year. Images are from work with @NatGeo on race and genetics, and my ongoing projects @whereloveisillegal and @onedayinmyworld. Please keep following, commenting and sharing. Your support really means a lot to me. Wishing you all the best for 2019! Robin
Photo @Hammond_Robin. I started the @onedayinmyworld campaign in order to highlight the challenges faced by people living with mental health conditions around the world. By themselves, stories are unlikely change anything, so I often collaborate with organisations doing work on the frontlines of this issue. One such org is Handicap International @hi_france. They take a holistic approach to mental health care - trying to address some of the factors that can cause or exacerbate mental illness. I worked with them in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon to illustrate how the overcrowded, impoverished conditions, and the trauma from conflict and the overwhelming hopelessness many refugees feel - impacts their mental health. You can see the people I interviewed and what life is like in the camp on the #InMyWorld website (link in bio). To have people with mental health conditions seen, heard and valued (the aim of this project), I’d be very grateful if all those who follow here please also follow @onedayinmyworld. Thank you!
Photo @hammond_robin This week I’m on a mission to get more people to follow @onedayinmyworld - the instagram account for the project I created to highlight the challenges faced by people who live with mental health issues. The idea behind #InMyWorld is that people with mental health conditions need to be seen and heard in order to be valued. This series I’m sharing today comes from work I did with Handicap International @hi_france on 'disabling environments,’ - in this case, an overcrowded prison in Madagascar. Regardless of whether or not someone has committed a crime, developing a mental illness should not be part of the punishment (nor does it help with rehabilitation). Sadly though depression, anxiety, extremely high stress levels are, for many, the result of being locked up in many prisons around the world. You can see the story on the website we created for this project (link in bio). So that we can continue the drive to have mental health become the global health priority it needs to be, I’d be very grateful if you could follow @onedayinmyworld
Photo @Hammond_Robin If you don’t already, please follow @onedayinmyworld. This is the instagram account for the project I created with @witness_change to highlight the challenges faced by people who live with mental health issues around the world. The stigma surrounding mental health issues means they are not discussed - as a result, in many places people with these conditions are hidden and can be subject to neglect and abuse. The idea behind #InMyWorld is that people with mental health conditions need to be seen and heard in order to be valued. I’m sharing here photos from the first story we published on the In My World website (link in bio). It documents the lives of people with mental health conditions left behind in the South Sudanese conflict. Under any circumstance, living in war is difficult - more so if you or a relative live with a mental health condition. Please do follow @onedayinmyworld so that we can continue the drive to have mental health become the global health priority it needs to be. Thank you!
Photo and reporting by @hammond_robin for @witnesschange // “The ribs were showing, he was very thin, you could tell he was not eating right food, in fact he was not eating at all… I think he starved.” This was Busi Mvundla telling me about the body of her deceased 58 year old great uncle Peter Mvundla. Hers was one of the last families I visited during my latest visit to South Africa. By the time I reached Busi I could hardly bear to hear any more stories of neglect. But I knew I was only scratching the surface of this tragedy, and that I needed to keep going if I was going to show that these were not just a few isolated cases but crimes that had quietly extinguished many, many lives in a horrendous manner. Crimes that I hoped I could help to keep in the headlines a little longer while the families fought for justice. Peter, who had been diagnosed with psychosis died at the non-governmental organization Masego after being transferred from Life Esidimeni, a specialist care facility. “He died in not a good manner. It was not his time to die,” says Busi. // It has come to be known as the worst human rights scandal to hit democratic South Africa. In an attempt to save money, 1,700 people with mental illness and intellectual disability were moved from the care facility Life Esidimeni into unlicensed care homes. Within two years, 144 people died. Causes of death included starvation, dehydration, and cold. No one has faced criminal charges. The relatives want justice. To see more follow @onedayinmyworld
Photo and reporting by @hammond_robin for @witnesschange // “The CID [police] told me he died of hunger, abuse, coldness, and dehydration,” said Anna Van Coller from her home in Johannesburg, South Africa. Anna's 73 year-old brother Jan Daniel Francois Denicker died in June 2016 after being transferred from Life Esidimeni, a specialized care facility, to the non-governmental organisation Siyabadinga. She didn’t learn of his death until 12 months later. // It has come to be known as the worst human rights scandal to hit democratic South Africa. In an attempt to save money, 1,700 people with mental illness and intellectual disability were moved from the care facility Life Esidimeni into unlicensed care homes. Within two years, 144 people died. Causes of death included starvation, dehydration, and cold. No one has faced criminal charges. The relatives want justice. To see more follow @onedayinmyworld
Photo & reporting by @hammond_robin // “I am very much angry because I don’t know the cause of the death,” says Rosy Tshabalala from her home in Gauteng, South Africa. "I think my mother died because of the hunger and coldness.” Julia Tahawe, Rosy’s mother, died in July 2016 after being transferred from Life Esidimeni, a specialized care facility, to Precious Angels, a non-governmental organization. // It is known as the worst human rights scandal in democratic South Africa. Trying to save money, 1,700 people with mental illness and intellectual disability were moved from Life Esidimeni into unlicensed care homes. Within two years, 144 people died. Causes of death included starvation, dehydration, and cold. No one has faced criminal charges. Familes want justice. To see more follow @onedayinmyworld