Overcoming post-conflict trauma with art: case studies from Africa

In volatile environments such as conflict-torn North Kivu, post-genocide Rwanda, or Sierra Leone, experts and humanitarian aid workers are now employing art to support the treatment of mental health conditions caused by violence. In many areas of the African continent, people with psychological illnesses lack effective therapeutic support – left alone in dealing with the sickness and forced to fight every day against the stigma. In these circumstances, art therapy can represent an important ally to cure pathologies such as PTSD, depression or nevrosis.

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A pandemic of solitude which is silent, suffocating and like hunger

“WHO has & WHO hasn’t!” is a poem selected from a collection by South Sudanese author Mandela Matur, known as Ade, written during the first phase of the spread of Covid-19. The poem deals with those human conditions often hidden behind the silence produced by stigma or isolation, and that have been aggravated by the present situation. A frail mental health becomes a heavier burden to carry and accept; reaching out one’s hand through the fog of pain to ask for help seems to be beyond one’s power. Ade’s poem unveils what lay hidden in the corners of the mind and encourages us not to let these invisible and pervasive malaises strike us.

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Applying musictherapy to human health, an experience from Africa

Music has always been part of Nsamu Moonga’s life, a young African musictherapist working in Boksburg, South Africa. A passionate student of music and psychotherapy, he decided to offer his skills – and his vocation – to the community. He works with children and young people at risk, in schools and in public institutions. Confident of music communicative and healing capacities – and of the diversity within the continent to be treasured -, he works connecting practice and research, enhancing African traditions and music.

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Migrants’ post-traumatic stress is aggravated by hotspot system

Most of the migrants who have arrived in Europe by sea since 2015 have experienced violence: mental health problems emerge during the reception period in host countries, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder. Thanks to a recent study, we know that what awaits these people upon arrival matters just as much as their experiences along the migration route and in their country of origin. Life in large facilities such as hotspots and CARAs can negatively affect previous traumas. Associations agree: it is time to remove the obstacles to integration, radically changing the border approach proposed by the EU.

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Ghana, the solitude of the mentally ill in wards that were prisons

There are three such structures in the country. A 2012 law, which establishes, among other things, the decentralization of psychiatric services, has significantly reduced the number of patients and the problem of overcrowding. Today the number of beds exceeds the number of patients. However, there are still issues of abandonment and the stigma towards those with mental disorders. This investigation contains some stories of the guests of the oldest hospital (it dates back to 1906 and was in the beginning a prison) and the interview with the executive director of Mental Health Authority who also talks about the principle and reasons for the so-called “decolonizing mental health”.

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“Mental 360”, in Kenya against youth depression and suicides

Mental 360 is a non-profit mental health awareness organization that has been active since 2016. Among its activities there are physical wellness, counselling, art therapy, yoga and dance, all aiming at promoting mental health and emotional stability. The end goal is to establish a society where mental illness is not stigmatized and treatment is affordable to the common citizen everywhere in Africa. We talked with Bright Shitemi, co-founder of the organization, who explained us the inspiration behind the NGO and the objectives, obstacles, results achieved to date and future goals.

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Tender Arts Nigeria: music, theatre and painting inside hospitals

TANigeria was founded in 2013 to promote art in all its forms within healthcare facilities in Nigeria and other African countries. It offers a wide range of activities aiming at improving social interaction, easing stress and bringing some color to hospitals wards. Through art, patients are able to express their emotions without words and over 7 years, more than 15,000 people have had the opportunity to take part in these projects which are tailored specifically to the patient’s personal experience. We talked with the founder of this social enterprise, Kunle Adewale, who explained us their programs, objectives and difficulties.

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Refugees and asylum seekers, people with mental health at risk

A study published on PLOS Medicine shows that migrants experience high rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, and that it’s necessary to provide immediate and continuous psychological support.

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