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Healing minds - MSF and mental health around the world

10 October 2017

Tumaco, Colombia, August 2017: Elva Gonzalez, community leader and women's rights activist.

Elva lives near the port city of Tumaco on Colombia's Pacific coast. As a community leader and women's rights activist she saw and experienced the violence that became an everyday occurrence for those living in Tumaco, as the military, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) leftist guerrilla group, and other armed groups fought for control. In this interview Elva, talks about her experiences in Tumaco and the support she has been given by an MSF psychologist. Photo by: Fabio Basone

Soilo Ramoz was a patient at MSF's Tumaco mental health clinic. Photo by: Fabio Basone

This is part of the MSF UK World Mental Health Day project. On 10th October, we are telling the stories of how we help those suffering from mental traumas around the world. MSF has built mental health provision into many of its projects, but we can do more to promote it to our public and professional audiences.

Through field trips and other content gathering, we have captured the stories of MSF’s mental health work and the experiences of those we have help, in a way that preserves the dignity and humanity of those involved. Photo by: Fabio Basone

Imani Bishye Stanley, MSF assistant administrator 
“We are living in a conflict area and the conflict doesn’t seem likely to end soon. That’s why for two years I was a community cousellor. I wanted to help my community and I joined the mental health department. The conflict also affected my family. It was not easy for me. My family were victims to the conflict. We have been working for 3 or 4 years and we lost everything.

Ten people in my family have been killed and I’m now supporting their children as they are orphans. For me, being with MSF is a passion. The principles drive me to do my best everyday to support people in need.” Photo by: Sara Creta

Rachel, 46 years old. She has been in hospital for over three months. 
The MSF mental health team support her as she is a survivor of physical and psychological violence. Photo by: Sara Creta

Jacqueline Nabonido Dusabe, MSF counsellor together with her patient Rachel at Mweso General Hospital on the border between Masisi and Rutshuru territories in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by: Sara Creta

The MSF team during a discussion group at Ibuga displaced camp in Kashuga. The team talk with the community about their traumatic experiences and send those in need of further mental health support to the local health centre.

A group of counsellors is providing mental health support to those who have experience rape or traumatic events. Photo by: Sara Creta

MSF mental health activities in Erbil camp. Photo by: Jean Christophe Nougaret

Since the beginning of the 2017, Erbil project teams provided more than 18,000 mental health consultations and more than 23,000 medical consultations, including consultations for non-communicable diseases (mainly diabetes, epilepsy, asthma, hypertension). Photo by: Jean Christophe Nougaret

“Our patients,” explains Renata R. Santos, MSF Mental Health Activity Manager in Erbil, “can be referred to us either by other organisations, or by our medical teams. They may also come by themselves if they heard about our services.

In July 2017, we added community health workers in our team: they go from tent to tent to explain that people in very disruptive environments can suffer mental health problems and to give information about the services we provide. They also visit patients when they miss an appointment. Photo by: Jean Christophe Nougaret

On World Mental Health Day, MSF highlights our work in providing people with mental health and psychosocial support after experiencing crisis or conflict. With mental health services across 49 countries, MSF has built mental health provisions into many of its projects. This gallery of images highlights the people MSF supports across the breadth of countries and contexts in which we work.

MSF, Mental Health projects