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Chains and Prayers as Treatment

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Mentally Ill Seek Afghan Shrines, Not Hospitals

With only 80 mental health treatment beds for an entire country of (an estimated) 29 million people (in 2009), desperation and superstition thrive in Afghanistan. An alternative “treatment” program in a religious shrine involves chaining people by the ankle for 40 days, allowing them to eat only bread, water, and black pepper, forbidding bathing, toilets, or changing clothes, wearing necklace amulets, and heavy doses of Islamic prayers. “The philosophy is, God can heal you or make you ill if he wants.” Although Afghan officials, medical personnel, and some consumers condemn the practice, devotees continue to visit the shrines to be chained up (or force their relatives to be chained), hoping for a miraculous cure. This video features the Mia Ali Sahib Shrine near Jalalabad.

Chains and Prayers as Treatment

Sandra Kiume

Sandra Kiume is a mental health advocate from Vancouver, Canada, and the founder of @unsuicide. Along with maintaining Channel N, she contributes to World of Psychology.

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APA Reference
Kiume, S. (2012). Chains and Prayers as Treatment. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2018, from


Last updated: 3 Jan 2012
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jan 2012
Published on All rights reserved.