A Newbie’s Perspective Part 4

Here is the 4th and final instalment of Iain May’s (MSc Global Mental Health student) contribution to the blog:

 “Here’s a funny thought, imagine a psychologist who does two weeks of intense training and research in Acceptance and Commitment therapy and yet can barely tolerate the flight home because he’s developed an irrational fear of flying. With the amount of turbulence we got I honestly felt like I was back in the car with Ibrahim…good god I hate flying! After 16 hours of travelling I returned safely to Dublin to be greeted by my family and a chicken dinner that wasn’t spicy! It was very disorienting trust me.

Our last few days in Bo, flew by, as was expected. The third ACT workshop was the best one yet. Over the two weeks Ross, Beate and Hannah had developed a great rhythm in delivering the training; watching them work so well together showed the comfort they had as a team. Outside the Bo workshop we were as busy as ever, visiting places like the Child Rescue Centre (CRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or the amputee village in Bumpe. Beate and Ross were able to sit in on a counseling session with a client in CRC and MSF. I couldn’t help but think next year I’d love to experience how an ACT session is carried out here. Ross provides a proper depiction of these visits in the entries below; these are a must read.

Meeting Hannah’s family on the Monday was also a big moment for us. At dusk we drove outside the city up a bumpy dusty road to a small, beautiful valley. We were attacked by a huge number of children playing in a primary school beside the house. With hi-fives, hugs and cheers we followed the 60 odd children to Hannah’s. Watching Hannah interact with them all in Mende made me wonder how cool it would be to learn a local dialect here. The Krio challenge has begun!


Getting back into the daily routine here I can’t help but feel a bit sad. I thought of the friends I’d miss: Ibo and Hannah Banana, who I wouldn’t see until next year, and Beate, who I wont see until August. I thought of the stories I’ve heard from participants and friends, and of the strength and endurance they had to possess during their experiences in the civil war. I also thought of how useful I felt over there, I was always on the go, whether it was helping with the workshop, carrying out my own research, or networking with other organizations. As weird as it may sound, our work in SL gave me a greater sense of meaning. I felt I gained a transparency into how I function and behave as a person, maybe it was because we were just so busy, I don’t know. I do know, however, that I’m still me, that I have not been enlightened with inner-peace, no not at all. I’ve had moments to myself on this trip where I was agitated; for instance, in my first night in Bo I got angry about having to sleep beside the motel generator; it felt like I was sleeping in a giant open-door freezer! Similarly, the first 3 mornings I was in Makeni I managed to smack my head off the door to the bathroom and curse loudly to myself; not the best start to the morning. Admittedly, the sink in the way didn’t help matters but how could I not get annoyed? It’s part of being a human. On reflection I do hope that what I’ve experienced can help me in becoming a better person. It is definitely something I can continue to work on when I’m home; to have less moments as a “grump”, as my brothers call me.


Reflecting on the trip as a whole I’m brought back to one resounding thought. I would never have imagined 6 months ago that I could have gone to Sierra Leone with Commit and Act as part of my thesis. I am eternally grateful to my Commit and Act team, my Masters programme and my family and friends for helping me in realizing this possibility. “



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