What led you to work with Médecins Sans Frontières?
After working as a clinical psychologist in Australia with children, adolescents and adults, I became interested in working with Médecins Sans Frontières when my own children became independent. I have always liked to travel, experience different cultures and meet new people. I also think it’s healthy to be out of your comfort zone occasionally.
My first placement was for six months in Aceh following the 2004 earthquake and tsunami; I have continued to work with Médecins Sans Frontières ever since.
Could you describe a patient who made an impact on you?
After Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013, I visited the worst-hit areas to find those most in need. I worked with a couple who had lost their two children, aged nine and ten, during the typhoon. They had been searching for their bodies for over a week when I met them in the ruins of their small house, contemplating ending their own lives because of their overwhelming grief.
After our first session, the father agreed to give his loaded rifle to a neighbour for safekeeping. I visited them daily for a couple of days, then whenever I could over the next month. Within a few weeks, despite their grief, they were more talkative, sleeping better and no longer considering suicide: they were showing signs of recovery. With help, they started rebuilding their house, replanting their few crops and became confident they could make a new life for themselves.