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Lia Kali on psychiatry: “a child tied to a bed, even for ten minutes… is torture”

Lia Kali's "UCA", a Melody Revealing the Dark Side of Adolescent Psychiatry

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Juan Sanchez Gil
Juan Sanchez Gil
Juan Sanchez Gil - at The European Times News - Mostly in the back lines. Reporting on corporate, social and governmental ethics issues in Europe and internationally, with emphasis on fundamental rights. Also giving voice to those not being listened to by the general media.

Lia Kali's "UCA", a Melody Revealing the Dark Side of Adolescent Psychiatry

It struck a chord with many when it was released a year ago. The song sheds light on the flaws and mistreatment prevalent in psychiatric facilities, drawing attention from both the audience and critics. Recently, Lia Kali shared her journey behind the song on the popular Spanish TV show “El Hormiguero” on Antena 3TV where she opened up about the personal struggles that inspired her music.

“UCA” serves as more than a musical piece, it stands as a powerful testament to the challenges faced by a young girl caught in a system that fails to provide genuine support and compassion, instead perpetuating oppression and cruelty. The song delves into a narrative of turmoil within a family dynamic that quickly spirals into violence, leading Lia Kali to seek refuge and eventually find herself confined in an adolescent psychiatric facility out of desperation.

Life in a psychiatric center was like torture, says Lia Kali

During her appearance on “El Hormiguero” Lia Kali shared how her freedom and autonomy were stripped away in the name of treatment. She painted a picture of conditions at UCA, where youths are often heavily medicated and kept isolated, resembling prisoners more, than patients. The song talks about how she was made to take medication without a diagnosis, highlighting the lack of empathy and care that worsened her suffering and that of other young people in similar circumstances.

The showman Pablo Motos asked Lia Kali “what was life like? I’ve never asked him…. I’ve never been with anyone who’s already been…. What was life like in there?”

And Lia answered categorically: “Torture. I mean…all of a sudden… that’s when you realize it and that’s also why, when I… when I asked myself whether I wanted to release this song or not, I realized that I did because I talked to people who still dealt with those centers and who still knew that the same practices were still being done, which ultimately are torture, which is tying people to the bed the same way for a week.

Kali described the inhumane and degrading practices that still persist in some adolescent crisis units, where young people are tied to beds and over-medicated, deprived of any human contact and basic understanding-treatments that she said are tantamount to torture.

“Are you going to tell me that you are trying to heal and help someone who is sick and what she needs is a fucking hug, and you won’t let her have any physical contact or talk to anyone and that your solution is to medicate her until she doesn’t even know who she is and have her tied to the bed without really caring about her diagnosis? I think that in Spain there is a big problem that what we do with people who bother is to put them to sleep. They dont care.” Lia Kali said.

She continued saying: “So I am ashamed and I am very sad that even today there are people who have relatives who have to go through similar tortures, tortures that are even forbidden in Europe, for example mechanical restraint, which is tying you to a bed, a lot of places in Europe, in which it is forbidden because it is understood as torture, which is what it is. I mean, to have a child, even a child tied to a bed, whether it is for an hour, ten minutes, it doesn’t matter, it is torture. It is a child… For God’s sake!””

Lia Kali’s impactful story in “UCA” has sparked conversations about the morality of psychiatric treatment for juveniles and the urgent need for changes within these facilities. The singer not only critiques the physical and emotional harm she endured but also condemns the apathy and systemic mistreatment by individuals who are meant to provide protection and healing.

Lia Kali’s appearance on “El Hormiguero” not just helped share her personal journey but also amplified the message of the song, resonating with audiences who may have been unaware of the reality faced by many adolescent crisis units, or those who suffered it and thought it “was normal”, or just did not find the strength to speak up. Her courage in sharing her story has been praised as a step towards demanding change, motivating others to speak up and take action against injustices and tortures in the mental health sector.

Psychiatry, treating patients “like dogs”

“What I found was a bunch of psychopaths who were there, probably underpaid, but treating us as if we were literally dogs. And in the UCA of Sant Boi I will say it and well, well, even enjoying it, for me the hardest thing was to say that I was there for a week, because after that week they realized that I did not have to be there. I got there because of something that made no sense at all and it was a doctor who did not feel like stopping to look at what was happening to me at home and why I was the way I was at that moment and sent me to a place where I did not belong.”

Evidencing a practice that is denounced a common in psychiatric hospital, Lia stated that she “was medicated without a diagnosis, right? I mean, it was like super crazy and I was aware of everything and I was like ‘how can there be such psychopaths here enjoying watching and laughing even when they do a restraint on someone and throw them on the [floor]?’. You know those…” speaking of when the hospital personnel were putting their knees on the chest of the patient, “Yeah, this happened to me. And I remember the face. I have that kid’s face etched in my mind, that half smile, of enjoying that and saying Loco, man, we have real psychopaths. How come there’s not a much bigger control in Spain? Fuck, they are our people, you know? They are also people. They’re people who feel, they’re people who love and they’re people who sometimes life has gotten the better of them. Sometimes they are just born this way, different. And I don’t think anybody deserves this. Hopefully, it will never happen to anyone in your family, no and hopefully and hopefully, it will change. And what I am saying here now, I hope that tomorrow there will be more control over these shitty centers where people are literally mistreated.”

“UCA” by Lia Kali transcends being a song, it serves as a call to provoke change emphasizing that art has a role, in addressing society’s darkest truths to inspire empathy. In a world where young voices are often disregarded or hushed, Lia Kali has found a potent means to ensure that her voice alongside others is acknowledged.

More about Lia Kali

According to the site of her agents:

Lia Kali first discovered music within home and when she was just sixteen she rode her bike over all the jams in Barcelona. There’s where she made friend with lots of musicians and artists of the city and where she started to dialogue with reggae, jazz, soul and rap. Since then she has never stopped singing. Lia jumped from jams to other live stages of Barcelona with a bunch of projects, such as the Amy Winehouse tribute she leaded. That’s how she realised her love with the stage was much more than a first-glimpse love: the stage is her place to be. Eventually she got tired of singing others’ songs and started writing her own pieces and discovered the healing within it. Lia Kali writes the original soundtrack from her day by day stumbles and falls and released her first singles on 2022, going viral and reaching milions of streams and views in musical platforms and TikTok. On March 2023 she launches her very first album ‘Contra Todo Pronóstico’, where she summs featurings with the real who-is-who in the urban and rap Spanish scene such as Toni Anzis, Acción Sanchez, J Abecia, Zatu Rey from SFDK and even the top respected Colombian rapper Nanpa BásicoLia Kali is nowadays most requested voices of the scene and with her debut album she makes one thing clear above all: any label falls short for her!”

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