Photo: A group mental health session in Doro Camp. South Sudan 2012 © Christina Jo Larsen/MSF
Voice From the Field: A Tale of Healing and Music
Athena Viscusi, MSF’s Mental Health Officer in the Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan, trained a team of refugees in psychological first aid, providing education on stress and trauma, basic psychological support, and detection of more serious cases for referral to the mental health officer and the medical team. Along with a group of 13 musicians, singers, and actors trained to deliver messages about mental health, MSF’s mental health team provides weekly performances throughout the camp.
“Khaled* is a 30-year-old man, tall and thin, from the Ingessana Mountains in Blue Nile State, Sudan. He first came to the attention of MSF staff when he wandered into our compound, disoriented and disheveled, with one of his friends who was working with us. At that time, we didn’t yet have a mental health program, but as soon as I arrived as mental health officer, his friend was sent to get him. I spoke to him through my interpreter, but he answered mostly in whispered monosyllables and hand signs. He said he was married but that his wife left because “my mind is not good.”
We started him on an antipsychotic drug, and monitored his progress. During one of his visits, we asked Khaled to join us at the musical performance we had scheduled that day and he followed us there. After the theater piece, he asked to borrow the rebaba and played and sang several numbers.
A woman approached us and said that she had seen Khaled’s progress. If we had been able to cure him, maybe we could help her husband who had become reclusive and would not leave their tent and help her care for their eight children.”
Read more about Khaled’s story and our mental health work in refugee camps.