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

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

Posted on Nov 24, 2020

Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital is the only psychiatric hospital in Sierra Leone.
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 Hospitalthe oldest psychiatric hospital in sub-Saharan Africawhich marked its 200th anniversary this year.

This miniseries dives deep into Sierra Leone’s historyincluding slavery, colonialism and civil warto explore how the past holds implications for mental health.

Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospitalonce an impoverished facility that, due to lack of resources, used chains to keep patients from harming themselves and otherstells 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.

tk tk
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.


tk tk
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.


tk tk
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.


tk tk

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.


tk tk
In June 2020, Sierra Leonan President Julius Maada Bio visited the hospital for a ceremony to honor the renovations. Photo by Jon Lascher / PIH.


tk tk
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.


tk tk
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.


tk tk
33-year-old Haja Salimatu Bah was diagnosed with psychosis and received inpatient care at the hospital. Since receiving proper medication and care, she has transitioned to outpatient care and recently had a daughter. She is pictured here with 10-month-old Ceray Kamara. Photo by John Ra / PIH.


Where To Find Unchain

Listen and subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast or YouTube.

Listen Now

Dr. Paul Farmer sharing a friendly moment with one of his staff.

Paul's Promise

As we mourn the passing of our beloved Dr. Paul Farmer, we also honor his life and legacy.

PIH Founders - Jim Kim, Ophelia Dahl, Paul Farmer

Bending the Arc

More than 30 years ago, a movement began that would change global health forever. Bending the Arc is the story of Partners In Health's origins.

Please send donations to: Partners In Health, PO Box 996, Frederick, MD 21705-9942