Care for caregivers

Clare Brennan has recently returned from Port Harcourt in southern Nigeria. As Mental Health Activity Manager, her responsibilities included providing psychological support to the national staff within the clinic on a regular basis.

"Our national staff are at the forefront of providing care for victims of sexual violence and give themselves wholeheartedly. MSF values ‘care for caregivers’ so it is essential that support for our staff is prioritised at the commencement of a project.

Given that I couldn’t be present for every consultation in Port Harcourt, it was important for me to get a true understanding of how the staff were managing the stories of victims, and how they were providing psychological care. As the project activity increased, it was essential that each staff member was supported, both emotionally and in their skill development.

I facilitated individual clinical supervision with both the national nurse counsellors and the national doctors on a fortnightly basis. Essentially, this was a forum for my colleague to air any concerns relating to a particular victim and the victim’s story, explore any feelings they had related to the story, and to receive support in managing these as well as exploring various psychological interventions. 

Many described the acts of sexual violence as being an abomination; it is most difficult for them to fully comprehend the extent to which sexual violence is occurring in their own community.The staff are undoubtedly affected by the experiences and stories shared by the victims – which is testament to their skills as counsellors, their compassion and the sheer magnitude of the victim experience."