Published: 17:00, 31 July 2014
An Ashford sweet shop owner has rescued an African woman "tethered like an animal" for a year because her family believed she was possessed by demons.
Former psychiatric nurse Lyn Suddards, who now runs Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe in the High Street, went on a mission to Cameroon through St Mary's Church to raise awareness of mental illness in the west central African country.
But when she was faced with a 49-year-old wife and mother tied up outside her parents' hut, Lyn's three-week trip to the village of Banso in the country's North West Province took an unexpected turn.
The 61-year-old grandmother, who lives in Queen Street, said: "The missionary I travelled with and one of the pastors were both concerned about the number of people who complained of village members being possessed by demons.
"At the end of my first training course, one of the health workers asked if I would go to her village and see this woman, Ita.
"The health worker had thought the woman was possessed but after the course she thought maybe she had a mental illness.
"When I went out and saw her I just cried - I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"She was tethered like an animal. She had a long rope around her wrist, which allowed her to go to the toilet and lie down at night."
Lyn added: "She was incoherent, but she wasn't really with it enough to be upset by her situation.
"She had been married and living in another village but when she became disturbed her husband sent her back to her parents.
"They were feeding her but she was incontinent in urine and faeces. Her parents loved her and cared for her, but didn't know what to do with her."
Lyn advised a community nurse to administer anti-psychotic medication and Ita has now been untied and is slowly being integrated back into her community.
The Brit was able to pay for Ita's drugs for a year and has vowed to return with more money in 2015.
She said: "When I was sent photos of Ita after I returned home and saw the difference in her it was an amazing feeling. It made the whole journey worthwhile.
"There are no mental health professionals out there and the health professionals I met had no knowledge whatsoever about mental illness.
"The group I was with have now applied to their funders for more mental health input and have used Ita as an example of how a life can be improved through training."
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