A Newbie’s Perspective Part 2

Here’s the 2nd installment from Iain Mays (MSc Global Mental Health student):

I must admit the comfortable rhythm I attested to over the first few days was shaken up in our last full day in Freetown. On Wednesday we visited 5 centres around the city, which provide support to varying vulnerable groups such as street children, substance abusers, mentally íll and sexually abused children and women. Where to begin! Due to our busy schedule in the day we were given small breaks when travelling between the different centers. Each time I jumped into the jeep after a visit I couldn‘t help but put what I‘d experienced out of my mind and think ‘Okay on to the next one’. On reflection I noted the great support we had for each other through out the day. There were Hi-Fives, arms over shoulders, big hugs, secret handshakes and a plethora of jokes so as to further nurture our ‘banter tree’. We decided, for example, upon Ross‘ alter egos: Jon Kabat-Zinn meets Bear Grills meets Ed Sheeran. We also provided each other with a surplus of film quotes and useful suggestions for nicknames such as: ‘Mammy‘ (Beate), ‘The Tank‘ or ‘Muscles‘ (Ibrahim), ‘Lurch‘ (Iain) and ‘C-dawg‘, or ‘All Killer No Filter‘ (Corinna).I felt it was only when we returned to Fr. Konteh’s did the heavy experiences of the day hit home. There were schizophrenics chained to beds, drug addicts in chains also; there were young children, some of the cutest I’ve met, recovering from sexual abuse and life on the street. How could I ever complain about anything? It was amazing for me to see my team-mates note similar reactions to the day; to see those I look up to, more experienced than I, visibly tired and overcome from the days events. As someone who hopes to work face to face with vulnerable groups, I was comforted by the fact that its okay to feel this way as a therapist, that these people are humans too and that they do not develop some magical coping mechanism for their work. As I write this entry I am influenced by what I’ve heard from Ross and Beate today in our ACT workshop in Makeni. This is the idea that it is human to feel pain and suffering, that it is part of our nature and that we must accept that we cannot change this. Until now I don‘t think I have fully understood this concept. I recommend reading Ross and Corinna’s blog entries about the 5 centers we visited for a proper description of the incredible work these organisations are carrying out.

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