Sunday, April 9, 2017

Culturally mediated understandings of wellbeing 3/9

Amongst defenders we found different reactions to questions about ‘mental and emotional wellbeing’ in our study. Some defenders interpreted this as a ‘Western’ concept, leading to ‘Western’ interventions that were inappropriate for them.

 As a leader of an indigenous community in Colombia said: We don’t really use the ‘psychosocial’ concept. We believe that the work we do as indigenous people is better for us. We are all in our right minds; we all have our five senses; we are not crazy. Just because there are armed groups present, it doesn’t mean we are in a bad way. However… there were 18-20 suicides in the last four years… We have tried ‘Western’ psychology, but it didn’t improve matters. The indigenous medics have blessed us and offered advice. This has been better for us.

Defenders in our study noted that it was sometimes difficult to hold discussions about wellbeing with fellow defenders because it was perceived to be linked with ‘madness’ or needing to see a psychiatrist. Those who recognized the value of counselling and treatment noted difficulties with accessing these forms of support as well as the stigma associated with these. Others felt that locally relevant cultural and religious forms of support were more effective for them.

 This Policy Brief is based on research findings from the project ‘Navigating Risk, Managing Security, and Receiving Support’ which examines the experiences of human rights defenders at risk in Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, Kenya, and Indonesia. Interviews and surveys were conducted with over 400 defenders between July 2015 and November 2016.

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