Stories in Conflict, Migration and Mental Health

11 Oct 2017

Reya Shah, DTMH September 2017

It’s coming to the end of Week 6 and our heads are swarming with various flies, worms and life cycles! But one memorable season was quite different: a workshop on conflict, migration and mental health, with a focus on individual experiences. This feels so relevant in the current climate, with an unprecedented scale of catastrophe, war and displaced people around the globe today. 

Dr Wilkinson inspired us to think about these peoples’ narratives when acting as their doctor: to see those whose needs may be hidden and listen to their stories, in order to make a difference to their lives and health: both physical and mental. My mind was brimming with tales of patients that she and my fellow DTMHers had met. I imagined being back in an NHS clinic and tried to put what I took from today down in words.


The Iceberg 

Another day, another clinic

In this rainy, comfortable, peaceful place 

My next patient has fled their homeland

Here, they have no voice, they have no face


What can I do for you today?

Surfing away on the tide of my routine 

A perplexing wash of ailments, still

The submerged iceberg remains unseen


Examining every nail, every orifice

Wondering what the physical problem could be

I hear but I do not listen

I look but I do not see


What could they have been through?

What could they have lost? 

How did they feel? What were their thoughts?

What’s the psychological cost?


Ripped from cultural and language ties 

Torn from a home, a community

The decision to leave amidst

Acts of brutality, cruelty, savagery


Travelling through fire and tragedy

Bearing naught but the tattered flag of hope

They finally arrive to face humiliation,

Degradation, for the misplaced fear they evoke


The trauma many have suffered 

Would burn me to my core

War and catastrophe breed ill adventure 

Mental as well as visible scars and sores


Another day, another clinic

In this rainy, comfortable, peaceful place

I’ll remember to ask my next patient’s story 

Affirm that they matter, they have a voice, a face

**This cover photo is taken from artwork from “Oh Canada” by Missy Higgins, a song telling the heart-breaking tale of a Syrian refugee’s story - his 3 year old son tragically drowned in the Mediterranean sea.