A message of hope on World Mental Health Day
10 October, 2023
Here we are again – glued to the news, checking Twitter for updates, sending worried text messages to loved ones. Which international emergency? - All of them.
Even if we’re lucky enough to be not directly affected, we feel these far-away tragedies deeply, like they’re creeping closer to our doorstep and happening with extraordinary frequency.
Not only because of how emergencies are covered so comprehensively in the media and on social media, but also because we live in an age of connectivity and globalism.
Geographical boundaries are blurring, and now we have friends from Kharkiv, relatives in Khartoum, old schoolmates in Sindh, or a colleague in Nagorno Karabakh – and when that push notification flashes with the latest death toll or the degree of devastation, our thoughts go straight to them and their loved ones.
My hope, particularly on this World Mental Health Day, is that these shared human experiences are fostering greater compassion and understanding among people around the world, that they are transcending borders and bringing us closer together as a global community no matter what our politicians say, no matter who the media pins against each other.
As the International Liaison Manager at the RCPsych, I strongly believe that our efforts embody this concept, and we effectively champion the delivery of the highest quality care for individuals facing mental illness, learning difficulties, and developmental disorders globally.
This World Mental Health Day I wish to highlight one of the ways the College fulfils this mission internationally; through our volunteers. I’d like to tell you about a friend.
I met Dr Nadia Dabbagh in Dubai when I hopefully requested a tour of Rashid Hospital and a meeting with her trainees. I could immediately tell that Dr Nadia was a buzz of energy, compassion, and warmth.
Her trainees clearly adored her and she seemed to know everyone’s name at the hospital, from security staff to director. I shared my observations with Professor Mohammed Al-Uzri, RCPsych Presidential Lead for Global Mental Health, and we started thinking of ways to recruit Dr Nadia to our expanding project in the West Bank.
Dr Nadia was very upfront with how busy she was in the summer of 2022, but the more Mohammed told her about the project, the more she surrendered to our pursuit and by 23 July we were on our way to Bethlehem together.
During this trip, I had the opportunity to assist Dr Nadia in a series of scoping interviews to develop a new national mental health strategy for children and adolescents. At the end of every day, we felt like our heads were ready to explode, we were absorbing and learning so much about the system, the doctors, and their patients.
Post-trip, Dr Nadia led the work to pour all this knowledge into a tailored framework that actually works for the practising environment and sets realistic targets for policymakers, therefore sustainably building a safer, healthier environment for children and for generations to come.
Dr Nadia has now assisted with three missions to the West Bank, a poster, an article, and numerous stakeholder meetings. She did all this for free, in her spare time, as a busy child psychiatrist, and a mother of three. That’s how much Dr Nadia believes in the power of the global community and the College’s mission to support capacity building with local partners to provide accessible, respectful mental health care to all corners of the world. The really wonderful thing is that she is one of many.
Our carefully curated international crisis resources, designed to aid those impacted by emergencies, represent a modest effort to expand the reach of the College’s mission to regions beyond our current access.
Please share these resources with anyone who might find them valuable, including healthcare professionals, caregivers, and patients. Additionally, I’d like to flag our extensive collection of patient leaflets, which are readily available in multiple translations on our website.
In times of emergencies, the significance of kindness and compassion transcends all boundaries. It extends its healing power not only to those directly affected but to all of humanity. It's a reminder that in the face of adversity, our capacity for caring can be a beacon of hope and resilience.
Mental health resources
The College has produced a wide-range of readable, user-friendly and evidence-based information on mental health problems, treatments and other topics, written by qualified psychiatrists with help from patients and carers.