Supporting the mental health of refugee victims of torture

Category: Narrative and Financial Report 2007

We began with this activity in April 2006. What came first was to organise a special up- to- date training on mental health advocacy to have a new dimension to the steep learning curve we already found ourselves on. Venues were Smethwick in our office and Shrewsbury. We learnt a lot but felt and still feel we have a long way to go in being a more effective force in spreading the knowledge of supporting refugee victims of torture to be able to manage their stress and emotional disturbance. Soon after the training which took place October, 2006, we began with " Meet Refugees in Distress Groups". Key people in local organisations were invited to a meal and afterward to listen to stories from victims. Just to listen to the stories of victims of torture was very stressful. Many of them have been raped, others wrongfully jailed for many months. Many are those who find themselves widowed or else their husbands are in jail. They are left with a family to feed and have to travel to the jail every day to bring food to the prisoner.

Some of the women have had to resort to prostitution and now they find themselves HIV-positive. For them emotions are hard to find - eyes have long since run out of tears. Months or years after they run away from persecution in their own countries, there is still a lot of unfinished business like coping with exile related stressors especially when one can not speak the language of the country where he/she was offered refuge. How can the body relax, how can life get back to normal? To try to find out some responses to this question, we initiated some counselling services. We have decided that the healing process touches love through a befriending structure and through Reflexology. This could help them at this time. Words would only sound hollow. Their bodies as well as their minds and spirits are so traumatised. Through Reflexology they could experience a new kind of touch - having their feet massaged as their bodies healed.

As they learned the skills of Reflexology themselves, they in turn went out to do it to others in their communities. On 11 March 2007, a workshop was held to relate to skills learnt from the training session of October 2006.

So far we have trained 2 groups. There are seven victims of mental health in each. It is wonderful to watch the joy on their faces as they relate how Reflexology has helped in their villages.

In May 2007, Mr. Shomari, Secretary of Care Link took contact with a psychiatric Doctor, Miss Emma Williams of an organisation called "The Medical Foundation for Care of Victims of Torture, also known as the Medical Foundation" This is a medical charity in the United Kingdom committed to documenting cases of torture and helping the full psychological and physical recovery of survivors of torture". After negotiation, Miss Emma accepted to directly refer patient to her in the future. We have managed to refer 2 patients so far.