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The history of Africa’s oldest psychiatric hospital is written on the walls of its isolation units, desperate messages chiselled into the woodwork like scars. “I came here for I don’t have any money,” reads one note in a corner of the room. “People want me to run from my father’s house,” reads another. “You go nowhere,” announces a third. “Stay out.”

Since the hospital opened in the early 19th century, most Sierra Leoneans have aspired to do exactly that, avoiding this imposing building perched high on a hill above the capital, Freetown.

Still the country’s only mental healthcare facility, the Sierra Leone psychiatric hospital is known in the local Krio language as the “crase yard” or “place for crazy people”. During the civil war in the 1990s, rebel fighters got as far as the staff quarters before turning back, too afraid of what they might find inside, witnesses say.

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Image: By Leasmhar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33862602

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The Guardian

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