Lisa, our mental health represenative on board reports on what psychological consequences she has observed among the rescued during the first rotation of the Humanity 1.
“The presence of a mental health representative on board is not common in search and rescue, but it makes a lot of sense, especially in the context of the Central Mediterranean route. We can develop a much more complex understanding of the mental health situation on board.
The mental health status
The mental health status of those rescued on board is related to the signs of violence and abuse that I and our doctor Barbara observed during the medical consultations. But they are not the only reason. The mental suffering has its roots in the situation the rescued people faced in their home countries. Survivors on board report that they were threatened with death and kidnapped. One of them told us that he had to witness the murder of his wife and children before he fled his home country.
In addition to this violence, people in their countries of origin are exposed to instability that we cannot imagine in our Western society. The increasingly unusual weather events, such as more regular and stronger monsoons, leave the inhabitants of many regions without anything to eat – and there is no supermarket around the corner.
Where do these people find the strength to carry on while everything around them is destroyed?
What I can see in the people, apart from this poor mental condition, is an incredible amount of hope and inner strength. What impresses me most are the mechanisms for personal coping with bad experiences and the high resilience of the rescued.
We have a legal obligation to provide a safe place for these survivors of threat, violence and insecurity.
From a psychological perspective, the rescued are in a particularly vulnerable state during their time on board. They are in transit from a place they have had to leave to a place they do not yet know. On board, they remain in the middle between these two places. In their minds, the survivors are also in this transition, and they feel completely alone.
Many of them have been on the ship for over two weeks.
This is an empty time for them, when they are faced with uncertainty, loneliness and fear. Most of them feel a great responsibility for the families they left behind. They cannot even get in touch with them and the process drags on.
This place in between, our ship, is mentally an empty space where they are forced to wait indefinitely without a choice. We must never forget: If we have survivors on board for such a long time, we are psychologically harming them.
This is a violation of human rights.”
Photo credits: Arez Ghaderi / SOS Humanity