Demeku Gizaw is 45 years old, and lives in Buhe, Ethiopia. Demeku first began experiencing symptoms over 20 years ago, and was kept in shackles prior to receiving treatment. Since being diagnosed with severe psychosis, she has been able to manage the condition with daily doses of medication and support from several members of her community. Today, Demeku lives with her friend Zinash and Zinash’s children. Although they face hardships, Zinash explains, “Some people just don’t know. That is OK though. Here we are taking care of each other.”
What Demeku’s story teaches us
When Zinash first met Demeku, she was very sick. Demeku was experiencing severe mental health symptoms and was tied up and held in shackles by the community. When the shackles were eventually removed, Demeku would wander off on her own at night. Zinash and her neighbours would look all over for her, and were terrified that Demeku would get lost or attacked by hyenas.
Demeku was eventually able to access treatment at Ammnuel Hospital in Addis Ababa. Today, Demeku takes medicine daily and travels to Addis Ababa once a month to collect the supplies that she needs. With support from her local government, she is able to access treatment and does not have to pay out of pocket for the medicine she is taking.
Today, Demeku is feeling much better. She still occasionally encounters stigma in the community. “Sometimes people still think less of me. They look down at me.”
But now she can count on support from Zinash, who understands Demeku’s condition and can provide comfort when she begins to feel unwell.
“I understand the disease. Some people don’t understand it, the things that trigger it like anger. It is not good for her to get angry. It’s not good for her to get upset or overworked. I tell her to sit down and rest so her disease isn’t triggered. When I can’t figure it out, I just use customs like… ‘What’s going on? Come drink coffee, come eat with me.’”