By Bol Buony Nyuot, associate trainer, CVT Ethiopia-Gambella
Each year, World Mental Health Day brings an opportunity to share information about the importance of mental health and to connect with thousands of people about the kinds of care that are available. This year was a great success for the CVT Ethiopia team in Gambella, where we used multiple approaches to share the word with the community in the Nguenyyiel camp.
CVT Gambella started organizing and planning for the commemoration of World Mental Health Day right after we commemorated World Suicide Prevention Day in September. For 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) theme for World Mental Health Day was “Make mental health and well-being for all a global priority,” so we incorporated this theme into our planning, messages and materials.
A dedicated team consisting counselors, counseling supervisors (CSs) and psychosocial counselors (PSCs) were given responsibilities for different aspects of the commemoration. The PSCs prepared a drama team and presented an informative skit on domestic violence while a question and answer (Q&A) session on mental health issues was prepared and led by one of our counselors. A protocol team was also at hand to receive and attend to invited guests. Days before the commemoration, CVT interpreters translated brochures into Nuer language, which is spoken by refugees in Nguenyyiel camp.
CVT appreciated support from our partner International Mercy Corps (IMC) who provided great entertainment through their cultural dance group. In addition, the key message about World Mental Health Day was also recorded and aired in advance in collaboration with our partner ZOA Studio.
The main objective of the questions is to help attendees look deeply into their perceptions, understanding and knowledge about mental health.”
On the day of the event, Monday, October 10, 2022, activities began with a march by the CVT clinical team from our healing center in Zone D of the camp to the new center in Zone A. This took about 45 minutes as the team was distributing brochures, airing the key message and engaging the people along the road and markets. The aim was to raise awareness on mental health and support for those facing mental health challenges. Since it was a ration day in the camp, the markets and street were busy, and we estimated that we reached more than 5,000 people in the food distribution centers, markets, roads and blocks nearby.
When CVT Team arrived in Zone A, community members had already arrived in big numbers; some were seated and others stood behind them, waiting. We feel happy that our new center is spacious enough to hold such a huge crowd comfortably. To our amazement, the skies opened to rain as we began, but our attendees – especially women and leaders – did not move from where they sat! To our best efforts we provided some with umbrellas while urging others to take shelter in the rooms. Thankfully the rain stopped and we were able to continue with the program. We take this as a lesson learned on providing cover for unexpected weather changes. On estimation, the number in attendance at the center was about 3,000 men, women and children.
Speeches were then given by our invited UNHCR senior protection assistant, Refugees Central Committee leaders and CVT’s psychotherapist/trainer and the zonal manager. The speeches touched on various mental health issues guided by the day’s theme. During the Q&A session, four community members volunteered to answer the questions and were rewarded with an umbrella each. The main objective of the questions is to help attendees look deeply into their perceptions, understanding and knowledge about mental health. After that, a counseling supervisor did a brief presentation to explain misconceptions of mental health issues.
Thanks to the support we receive from our donors and CVT headquarters, we were able to gift our participants with T-shirts, caps and umbrellas which they really appreciated.
At the end, the attendees broke into song and dance and the mood was joyous and full of positive energy.