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Grisi Siknis

Mystery mental illness afflicting girls in Nicaragua

Travel With RTD to North-West Nicaragua to investigate a mysterious mental health phenomenon. Julia Muriel Dominzain takes you over green volcanic hill-country; your goal is the Mosquito Coast, on the edge of the Caribbean Sea, home to the indigenous Mizkito people. In this idyllic tropical setting, the girls are going mad.

The people afflicted by “crazy sickness”, or “Grisi siknis” in the local dialect, are mostly teenage girls who alternate between periods of lethargy and sudden frenzies. During these fits, the girls run away, show superhuman strength in fighting off anyone who tries hold them down, and self-harm. If they mention someone’s name, that person starts displaying symptoms too. RT visits people affected by the epidemic, and even witnesses real seizures.

The symptoms and cure don’t fit easily within the categories of Western medicine. Modern psychiatry labels Grisi siknis a “cultural syndrome”, like the practice of “running amok” in Indonesia. The villagers, on the other hand, believe it to be the work of the Devil. Doctors admit they are out of their depth, while a traditional healer shares his recipe with RT. While looking back on her own girlhood, Julia Muriel Dominzain is on the hunt for a missing piece of the puzzle.