It is a sad fact that we take for granted the most precious, but fundamental things, like health and freedom. Today I opened a web page and was confronted by a young man who has neither health nor freedom and I have to say that I was shocked; I have to admit here and now that when I saw the image I cried at the anguish it caused me. The photo to the left is that of Wei Yun, who has been caged on a daily basis for 21 years because his parents have no other way of looking after him.
Wei, a mentally disabled Chinese man, has spent almost his entire life locked inside a wooden cage because his family cannot afford to look after him. He cannot walk or talk and is caged by his parents when they are working. He had an accident when two years old and knocked over a pan of boiling water. From that point onward his father and stepmother took this drastic action ‘for his own safety’. They say they have no choice as they have to work to support the family and there is no one to care for Wei.
Many of China’s mentally ill people are forced to live in the most appalling fashion especially in rural areas where poverty is rife and there are no state facilities to care for them. Wei Yun’s plight echoes that of 40-year-old Tang Zuhua, whose 76-year-old mother has kept him locked in a ruined barn in Chongqing, southern China for 23 years.
It is often truly awful to look at the miserable conditions that others have to suffer elsewhere in the world, but in Wei’s case and likely the same as many other people with mental health illnesses in poor countries, this makes the horror and despair that much more painful and harder to bear.