The Struggles of Refugees in Turkey

By: Ekinsu Kabadayi

The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has affected many countries and continents in a very short time. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and asked countries to take stringent measures to stop the spread of the virus. That same day, the Turkish Ministry of Health, announced the first positive case of COVID-19 in Turkey, and days later the first virus-related death occurred on March 15, 2020.

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide and has the largest number of registered Syrian refugees in the world among whom almost half are children. Presently there are 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees with close to 330,000 persons from other nationalities reşiding in Turkey, as they are forcibly displaced due to conflict, violence, and persecution. The majority of refugees in Turkey live outside the camps and over 98% of Syrians under temporary protection live in urban and rural areas with less than 2% residing in temporary accommodation centers. The Coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly has had and continues to have many social, economic, educational, cultural, and health effects on refugees in Turkey. Worldwide migrants and refugees comprise a vulnerable population group and are presented with a significantly higher risk of exposure to the virus and other infections, as they stay in overcrowded settings with poor ventilation, poor hygiene, limited access to water supply and sanitation facilities, a minimal number of employment opportunities, and limited access to the health-care services.

Research studies conducted among refugees in Turkey by the Association Of Solidarity With Refugees And Migrants (n=1.162), stated that 40% of people needed to apply to health services for various reasons during the epidemic.15% of these people stated that they could not benefit from health services, 57% of participants with children said that their children can be followed up regularly for vaccination and 68% of people who needed regular medication stated that they could not obtain their medication. The results of the survey showed that 83% of the participants stated that they had sufficient information about the COVID-19 outbreak. The participants indicated that they mostly accessed the information through social or other written/visual media and 19% stated that they accessed it through their neighbors or friends. Nearly 10% of the participants were informed through the Ministry of Health which is the most reliable source for accessing accurate information.  

Besides these views, the economic crisis unleashed by the outbreak of COVID-19 is hurting economies, regardless of income level. Many workers have lost their jobs and even several firms have closed down. During the containment process, many local workers as well as refugees lost their jobs and had difficulty in defraying their expenditures. In the previously mentioned research among the refugees in Turkey, 63% stated they had difficulty in accessing food, and 53% said they had difficulty meeting basic hygiene requirements. People whose mandatory spending and payments were affected after the COVID-19 measures stated that they had difficulty in paying their rents, invoices, and basic supplies.

As in many other countries, schools and universities have closed and moved to online platforms and remote education to contain the spread of coronavirus. The COVID-Sectoral Analysis of Impacts on Refugees in Turkey state that 70% of the Education Sector Survey participants children are still enrolled in school. However, 48% of the children enrolled in school could not benefit from remote education and were unable to follow the lessons on television or online because they did not have the necessary technological devices such as television, computers, etc.

Although the majority of people have sufficient knowledge of COVID-19, the increase in unemployment and lack of regular income worsens the accommodation and conditions of people. Developing action as the global community and intervening to respond to the sensitivity and needs of refugees is essential. It has been predicted that the livelihood of people living with daily wages will not be sustainable if the COVID-19 pandemic is prolonged. 

As students against COVID, raising awareness about refugees in Turkey and their suffering is important as human beings. It is important to strengthen the focus on providing psychosocial support to the affected population, to ensure that refugees have access to accurate and reliable information about COVID-19 and to inform them to wash their hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser, how to use a mask and how to protect themselves and their family against COVID. Especially during pandemic steps should be taken to raise awareness to improve the living standards of refugees. No person anywhere should have to put themselves at risk of human rights violations. 

City of Joy-Kolkata

In the city of joy

“Let every action of mine be something beautiful for God. “

By Aleesha Joykutty

Mother house…? ” asked the perplexed taxi driver. After a 15 minutes taxi journey from Nizam Palace, we finally reached the Mother House in Kolkata, nicknamed as the City of Joy by Dominique Lapiere in his novel. A huge board – Missionaries of Charity, made us realize that this was our destination. It was a 3 storied greyish building in the midst of a congested area on the side of a busy road with no compound. It was previously called as ‘ Grey Nun’s Building ‘.

An old sister clad in a wrinkled white saree with blue strips covering her head and a rosary in her hands welcomed us with a smile. Adorning the walls were Mother Theresa’s statues, photographs with eminent persons and a board signalling ‘Photography not allowed ‘.

The plot originally belonged to the Gomez brothers who gave it to Mother Theresa to start the Institution. A narrow staircase led to a small, poorly furnished room with a small bed, a chair and some paintings. Simplicity reflected the place where she lived, a simple life so that others may simply live.

Nuns were decorating her large sombre tomb with marigold. We paid our homage. Not many were present barring a few Indians and foreigners. While some had quivering lips with prayers and tear’s flowing down their eyes, others knelt and stooped near the tomb in devotion. Sisters were doing household chores, as the aroma of surfactant, washing bar and breakfast filled the air.

The museum displayed mother’s worn put sandals and enamelled dinner bowls. The wall was adorned with her early life photographs. I saw here beautiful handwritten notes. But what I loved the most was the representation of here entire lifetime with dolls. It was innovative. We read here life story. We were happy to meet a Keralite nun who described everything about mother’s life storyline and made us feel comfortable.

She was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to a God fearing Albanian Roman Catholic family in Skopje (Republic of Macedonia). She left home to join the Sisters of Loreto and came to Darjeeling, India as a novitiate in 1929. She added a 4th vow of ‘ whole hearted service to the poorest of the poor’ to her vocation. On a train journey from Calcutta to Loreto convent on 10 September, 1946, she heard a ‘call within a call’ and replaced her Loreto habit with a saree to start the Missionaries of Charity in 1950.

Then, we left for four next destination. Rabindra Sadan – Netaji Bhavan – Kalighat : the journey by the Calcutta metro reminded me of my own Mumbai locals. The metro was crowded as it was Mamta Banerjee’s oath taking ceremony. Four next destination was Mother’s world famous but surprisingly small home for the

dying and the destitute – Nirmal Hriday or ‘ Home of the Pure Heart’. Established in 1952, it is situated adjacent to the Mali temple. We walked along the lane dodging garland makers, Hindu God idols and people and was surprised to find Nirmal Hriday with it’s architecture in typical Hindu temple style.

Yes, it was a temple converted into a destitute home. The signboard read “Mother’s first love”. Realising that’s we were lost, a sister donning an apron greeted us. We were told to keep silence amidst the chaos. People were screaming with pain. As I touched a small unpolished table, she said, “Mother’s table, she used to wrote all here income and expenses here.” Just by the side, a group of foreign volunteers lofted an old disfigured man crying with pain to bathe him. Their volunteers came everyday without showing any hesitation she said. They would wash the open sores of the inmates, bandage them with love and soothe them with comforting words.

“Service to humanity is service to God. “

Upstairs, the green beds were neatly decked in rows as the inmates had home to pray. For their near and dear ones, they were just a heap of bones and flesh with diseases, but for the sisters they were beautiful creations of God. They just smiled with tears rolling down their soft and helpless eyes. They were

unwanted, unloved and uncared for and forgotten by everybody before they came to Mothers House.

The next day morning, after having a matka chai, we went to the Mother’s House to attend a Latin rite mass. The loud noise of the trams didn’t affect four joy and enthusiasm. It was a feeling of heavenly worship with hymns and prayers in Bengali, English and Hindi. We saw the novitiate sisters(new nuns) sitting in unbroken lines worshipping Him.

From just 13 members in Calcutta to 45, 000 in 133 countries, Mother’s institution has made a remarkable progress. She experienced doubts, loneliness and temptations in here early years to return to the comforts of convent life, but didn’t succumb to the pressure.

“Let every action of mine be something beautiful for God. “

Aleesha Joykutty, a 2nd year medical student at GMC Kolhapur, Maharashtra state, India. She is a volunteer with Vector NGO, Samvad, Letters to Strangers-Kolhapur Chapter, Rotaract club of Caduceus. She loves traveling, photography & scribbling her thoughts.

Significance of Breast Cancer Awareness

Significance of Breast Cancer Awareness In Today's World

As Ann Jillian said, “There can be life after breast cancer. The prerequisite is early detection.” 

By Shivalika Sharma Bahukhandi

“Cancer doesn’t care, so you have to.” –  Crystal Brown-Tatum

According to IARC Globocan, 2018, the global stress has risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million  deaths  worldwide. It is even estimated that one-in-five men and one-in-six women worldwide will develop cancer over the course of their lifetime, and that one-in-eight men and one-in-eleven women will die from this disease. By far, breast cancer is amongst the  top  five most probable  types of cancers worldwide, both in developed and developing countries. The cases have been rising at an alarming rate in the past  years in economically backward  countries due to an increase in urbanization, poor prognosis and adoption of the western lifestyle over traditions. Breast cancer is not only  limited to women, men can be diagnosed with  it too, however the chances of occurrence are comparatively low, i.e.,  1 in 100 breast cancer cases diagnosed are found in men. Everyone, therefore, should be aware and should be able to differentiate  between a normal breast  how it looks like and feel, for recognizing any change that might occur. 

“While knowing what to look for is important, a woman should still get her regular mammograms and clinical breast exams, as these tests can help detect breast cancer before she even has symptoms,” said Tuite.

There are many warning signs our body shows that helps us  in identifying that something is wrong. Lump in the breast or underarm (armpit), Swelling or thickening of all or part of the breast, Dimpling or skin irritation of breast,, localized and persistent breast pain, Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin, nipple discharge (other than breast milk) or any change in the size or shape of the breast are some of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.  Various day to day factors appear to be driving this increase, particularly a growing and ageing global population and an increase in exposure to cancer risk factors linked to social and economic development.  A woman who is 50 years or older,  may have changes in their BRCA1 OR BRCA2 genes which are the breast cancer genes, making them more prone. Some things can be done to  lower the breast cancer rates, like keeping a healthy weight and exercising regularly, avoiding , or limiting the alcohol intake, understanding the associated risks related to hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, , breastfeeding your children, if possible.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to increase awareness regarding breast cancer, pink color, and ribbons  symbolises breast cancer awareness and support. Spreading awareness is extremely important, due to the lack of medical infrastructure & treatment of breast cancer, therefore, to control this, the only option available is early detection of the disease. When breast cancer is detected early, there is a  great chance that it can be cured but if not, treatment can no longer be an option at later stages.

Breaking the chain of infection

Breaking the chains of the infection

 These small measures can the “Sanjeevani” to  remain safe even if we cannot avoid coming into contact with the pathogen.

By Hasitha Durgavajjhala

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to step back and evaluate ourselves on our approach to diseases at large. For many, it has served as a wake-up call on the importance of day to day hygiene and public health. Where many infections were previously overlooked as inevitable for a season – some such diseases being  common cold and dengue – it’s now shown to be easily prevented, or at least reduced, by taking some basic precautions.

Infections are caused by the entry of pathogenic organisms into a healthy body. These organisms could be any: bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, or parasites. Once they enter the body, they produce antigens, which produce the “effects” or the symptoms of the disease, and activate our immune response.  Our  immune system tries to destroy these antigens and expel them from the body in a variety of ways. This is often the reason for transmission of communicable diseases in a society – the infected person is often releasing these antigens through breaths, sneezes, phlegm, etc.. People in contact with an infected person are therefore, automatically at risk.

However, it is important to remember that each body is different. Depending on genes(family history), the environment and a plethora of other reasons, people’s bodies react differently to the same infection. Some may show multiple symptoms, whereas others may present none. The latter, called carriers, are very dangerous in terms of public health. The lack of observable symptoms means they may never know of the infection, and yet continue to transmit it.

A notable example of this is Mary Mallon, known colloquially as Typhoid Mary.  She was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid. In her career as a personal chef to various affluent families, she unknowingly transmitted the disease to an estimated 53 people over her fifteen year career span, and was forcibly quarantined for the rest of her life once she was discovered as a carrier of the disease.

Therefore, it’s important for us to understand the various routes of  transmission of infection. They are as follows:

Direct Contact: This is when an infected person’s tissues or bodily fluids come into direct contact with an uninfected person, giving the pathogens the opportunity to enter the uninfected person’s body. This includes bites, scratches, sexual contact, and needle sharing.

Air: This is a form of indirect contact, where pathogens suspended in the air are breathed in by uninfected persons. Pathogens can enter the air through sneeze droplets, breathing and even speaking from infected persons, and during medical procedures. These tend to be very small particles so they can travel quite quickly through air currents. However, most pathogens cannot survive very long in the air.

Vectors: Vectors are living beings, usually insects or rodents, which can carry pathogens and spreading them to uninfected persons. A good example of this phenomenon is mosquitoes transmitting malaria. They obtain the pathogen through sucking the blood of an infected person and can transmit the pathogens to an uninfected person by biting them.

Ingestion: Food and drinks can get contaminated by feces, urine, saliva, or contaminated cooking equipment. Ingestion of contaminated food introduces the pathogen to the body and leads to infection.

Fomite Transmission: This is when inanimate objects get contaminated, and those coming in contact with these objects get infected. These objects can include surfaces, clothes, medical equipment, cutlery, and vehicles.

Direct transmission and air-based transmission are the major routes of spread of infection. Diseases like COVID-19 and seasonal epidemics like the common colds  have been known to spread very fast and very far by this phenomenon. An easy way to combat this spread is to hinder direct contact, by simply maintaining distance between oneself and people whose infection status is unknown. This is known as social distancing. A major transmission route for many diseases is inhalation of respiratory particles suspended in air. However, as discussed previously, pathogens cannot survive very long in air. Therefore, a combination of social distancing and protecting inhaled air using masks or face coverings can go a long way in protecting people from this pandemic. 

However, pathogens do not just exist in the air – they also settle on surfaces, inanimate objects, and may be transmitted by vectors or through food. However these issues could be resolved by applying very simple solutions, i.e., cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces, timely and thorough washing and sanitizing of our hands after touching something that may be contaminated. These are all small measures that should already be a part of our hygiene routine. However, in times of pandemic,  these small measures can the “Sanjeevani” to  remain safe even if we cannot avoid coming into contact with the pathogen. As for food, it is always best to know where your food is coming from, to eat healthy, and to make sure that kitchens and chefs are properly upholding food safety standards. In times of vector-spread epidemics, making use of repellents, and staying up to date on vaccinations for preventable diseases is the key to an individual’s health. 

In East Asia, such responses are common even for seasonal epidemics like the common cold. Wearing a mask to prevent further infection when one has an infectious disease is considered basic courtesy in Japan, China, and South Korea. Coupled with the lower obesity and pollution rates, this has been linked to better public health and reduced spread of such infectious diseases in these countries.

It may seem simplistic to say that these small measures can actually make a difference. However, the pandemic has shown us the true power of social distancing. In New Zealand, the first COVID-19 case was reported on the 11th of March 2020. The country adopted a policy of “go hard, go early” and announced an immediate lockdown and social distancing requirements. After less than a month, on the 9th of June, the country reported a streak of no new cases, and the lockdown was lifted. The virus, once eliminated, has yet to be reported again.

The true solution to this pandemic, of course, is in finding effective medication, vaccines and in governmental regulations to allow these to be availed by the entire population. However, public health is not just the responsibilities of the authorities, but also a personal duty. The public is, after all, just a collection of individuals. Herd immunity is only effective to a point. After this, it is up to each person to take care of their own hygiene, and for those infected to step up and minimize the spread of the disease from themselves.

Imagine a series of dominoes: once they start, it may seem impossible to stop them from all falling, as they move so fast. However, removing a single domino piece can make it impossible for the previous piece to reach the next one, and stop the collapse of the entire line. The fallen pieces may have fallen already, but the ones ahead of the removed dominoes remain standing. This is exactly how public health works.

Our duty now is to wear a mask, maintain social distance and wash our hands often. We cannot single-handedly end the pandemic – but we can make sure our loved ones and those around us remain safe.

Hashita is student in the final year of a master’s degree in biotechnology. Based in India. Passionate about mental health, sunsets and her cat.

Educational Crisis in Jordan

Educational Crisis Amidst COVID-19 in Jordan

“Direct education in Jordan is the base, and resorting to e-learning is an exception, to which the necessity has made the priority of preserving the health of students, teachers.”

By Haya Mohammed Abujledan

The pandemic has forced the world to take a step back and rethink. The outbreak has forced several countries of the world on a backfoot by enforcing a lockdown on almost everything, be it  the markets , educational institutions, especially universities, schools, affecting more than 103 million students across the Middle East and North African region itself. Like many other countries, Jordan has stepped forward to take their education online & enforce appropriate measures to re-ensure the smooth running of their educational system.

“Jordan suffers from the burden of e-learning: the government and citizens”

 The  total shift of education on online platforms also has its positives not only on the student’s personality and skills but also in the way of interpretation. Research shows that visual aids have always improvised a child’s learning capacity through social communication, increasing their interaction with others and shaping these children into more independent individuals, not to mention teaching them life values like commitment and respect for order.

 

Moreover, the “e-learning” experiment imposed by the Jordanian government  has raised concerns not only among the teachers, but also the students and parents due to the lack of basic communication services and affordability of the Internet and other electronic devices. This may lead the students to move from one stage of education to another without the appropriate educational qualifications & skills to tackle the next.

 

With the world economy at an all-time low, Jordan is suffering it’s impact too. There has been economic chaos due to the introduction of e-learning by the Government. The chaos arised due to the fact that the private sector of the country has incurred material losses because of the shift of many parents to public schools rather than private ones. They might feel a loss of advantage of making their children study in private schools which might create anxiety about job opportunities for teachers and administrators in this sector.

The government has provided the “DARSAK 1” and “DARSAK 2” platforms, which are made available to everyone on all platforms namely the Internet and Jordanian TV channels such that no child suffers a loss of education. Lessons would be delivered by teachers from the most qualified public and private schools, rendering an equal opportunity for all to learn.

A tender has been issued by the government to purchase more than 300,000 devices which would be distributed & supplied to the children in need, not only increasing the scope of education amongst the population but also providing a fair chance.

 

 

Haya is a genetics engineer and science teacher based out of Jordan!

References:

The Hashemite Kingdom Of Jordan,The Ministry Of Education 

Rant of a Chaotic Mind

Sometimes…it’s too much thought: Rant of a chaotic mind

Unraveling mental health struggles in the time of COVID-19

By Mariam Baloch
MBBS Student, Pakistan

I tried breathing but i fail. 

The pain has me in an invisible chokehold making it impossible to gulp those precious sips of air.

It feels suffocating.

It feels unbearable.

Surely there must be something to make it better.

A thought trickles into mind. I remember that tiny flash. The glinting metal in the drawer of my dresser.

Should I?

The subconscious decides for me. With a stealth any ninja would be proud of, I lock the door. The click too audible in the quiet of the room. I take the blade, a bit upset, that I am ruining the packaging.

I inspect it, fascinated with the tiny instrument, calculating, brooding.

“I inspect it, fascinated with the tiny instrument, calculating, brooding.”

Would she infer, that she was the cause of my hurt. That she caused me to finally snap. The daughter that was never good enough, now is lifeless-Dead.

Would I be able to see?

I picture the janaazah lying in our porch, with my ghostly apparitionn standing in a corner.

Would she cry?

Would she be in pain as I am?

Would that be a punishment enough?

The thought makes me smile. Almost.

The moment of monetary distraction passes, and I turn my attention back to the tiny object.

Where to do it?

Bathroom!

I must announce I am going to take a shower.

Yes. That will probably give me an hour.

This is it.

I close my eyes,

Take a deep breath;

And apply the subtlest of pressure.

Just a bit more,

I do it.

Opening eyes, I look down to see a mere trickle of blood. The cut which is little more than a pinpoint lesion, almost undetectable.

Phew! That felt good.

The pain masks the hurt.

Barely.

A sob wrenches out of me.

This was supposed to make it stop.

It doesn’t.

 

I contemplate.

Alas, I have exhausted all resorts of bravery for this day.

Perhaps, with xylocaine again. 

 

It is not thoughtlessness or impulsivity that propels you to end life.

Sometimes, it is too much thought.

Misinterpreted Mental Health

By: Nimisha Ajaikumar

Mental health disorders are prevalent in the current age, affecting one in four people, according to the World Health Organisation. Most people, regrettably, have devised a stigmatizing outlook of mental illness due to the extremely incorrect portrayals by pop culture. People mistakenly believe that those having a mental disorder are ‘crazy and dangerous beings who should be sent to a mental asylum,’ away from the public eye. Here is a list of five most common yet misinterpreted mental disorders.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

When people hear the word OCD, they visualize a neat-freak who continually washes his/her hands or arranges his/her shoes in a perfect line. However, OCD is much more than a penchant for tidiness. As the name suggests, people with OCD have an obsessive, irrational, and uncomfortable thought that they cannot stop thinking about. It could be something morbid like, “Today my family members will die in a car crash.” To free themselves from this obsession, they engage in compulsive, repetitive, and seemingly unrelated routines. So a person might ring his doorbell exactly five times so that his family is safe on the road. 

I had an experience with a man with OCD, who believed that he would have no friends if he did not participate in his compulsive routines. He did not have any friends, to begin with so when he reached out to me, I assured him, “I will still be your friend even if you do not wash your hands.” Such a simple sentence was so relieving for him. He excitedly told me the next day that he did not feel the need to participate in his routine. So it would be great if you regularly take out the time to provide emotional support to somebody in need.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder involves an intense phobia of social situations. People with this disorder, dread being seen in public and having to interact with others. Just imagining being out there in the open having a conversation with somebody makes their palms sweat, heart race and blood pressure rise. They experience nausea, fainting spells and breathing difficulties in social situations. 

People wrongfully associate introversion, shyness and stage fright with social phobia. Social phobia is when individuals experience physical symptoms by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system due to misreading social situations as threatening, and should not be confused with stage fright and introversion.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

DID is a personality disorder in which the self dissociates into different alters (personalities), usually as a response to childhood trauma. Several personalities share one body, each having a purpose of protecting the host personality from stressors. Thus, one woman may have five personalities, each with different genders, accents, interests, and goals. Work-life and relationships are exhausting because this disorder is highly stigmatized and usually kept a secret. This stigma arises due to the misinterpretation that a ‘murderous personality’ will take over the host and go on a killing spree, as shown in the film, ‘Split.’ The bitter truth is that these people mostly harm themselves as they contemplate suicide as an escape from this ‘exhausting existence.’ Other people also falsely assume that these alters can be exorcised from the ‘possessed body.’ 

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that entails delusions, hallucinations, and catatonia. Simply put, people with this illness have bizarre thoughts and tend to sense people and things that are not present in reality. Hearing voices and seeing dangerous creatures is a torturous experience for someone with schizophrenia, and they feel invalidated because everybody else acknowledges this as a figment of their imagination.

Sadly, these people are portrayed in films and TV series as murderous monsters with an unlimited bloodlust. Thus, the general public fears them rather than supporting them. In reality, people with schizophrenia are rarely fatal to others. They are more likely to harm themselves, mainly because they are too lonely to have a well-wisher who can remind them about reality. –

Depression

Depression is a common mental disorder but still heavily misinterpreted. People with depression experience prolonged sadness, worthlessness, and pessimism. Due to this, they find no meaning in their existence and tend to be extremely unproductive. Others overlook this for laziness and blame them for behaving like a ‘sloth.’ They are forced to get over the issue instead of being ‘so sensitive.’ We can save a life by validating their emotions and reminding them of their worth. They should not be made to feel rejected and unwanted.

Conclusion

People suffering from any mental illness deserve to be assured that “there will be a bright and positive side to their life.” They should not be stigmatized and ostracised but supported so that they do not feel abandoned in their struggle. Even a smile and a few words of kindness can mean a lot to someone who is forever fighting a war with their illness. It is high time we educate ourselves on mental illness and silence the stigma against it. We cannot afford to lose more lives due to their feeling shunned and misunderstood.

Nimisha Ajaikumar
Nimisha Ajaikumar

I am an aspiring clinical psychologist currently pursuing my Bachelor’s in Dubai. I’m passionate about mental health and I wish to make a difference in the world by making mental health facilities more accessible to all. I believe that many strive to raise awareness but only few are actually taking action. I am one of those few. I destigmatise and simplify Psychology concepts on my blog, Silence the Stigma, and demonstrate how we can apply these skills in our daily life.

Representation of suicide in fiction

By: Hasitha Durgavajjhala

For as long as humans have told stories, the concept of suicide has been folded in as a palatable way to depict turmoil. Tragedy in itself is too abstract to fully grasp on to, so storytellers have learned to channel it through accessible tropes. Romeo and Juliet chose to poison themselves rather than being separate, Javert jumped off a bridge when he realised morality and legality were not synonymous, Tony Stark snapped his fingers to save the universe. The audience may never truly understand the desperation of ill-fated love, the terror of personal principles dissipating, or a superhero’s magnitude of sacrifice. They may however understand the feeling of fear, the desire to escape one’s wrongdoings or  even a single tear at the thought of a child left parentless. All these situations maybe unlikely for the general viewer, but they serve as an easy way to depict the weight of emotional burdens.

In the early 2000s, conversations about mental health were rare in the mainstream, and the subjects were still  considered a taboo. At this time, children’s literature was shifting quickly from mass-produced pulp fiction to young adult novels. Specifically, young adult dystopian series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson became a staple genre almost overnight. These series all tended to follow a pattern – a teenage lead with a tragic past would suddenly find out that they are the “Chosen One” and set out on a quest to defeat a series of villains. In the process, they would learn the horrific truth – in order to save the day, the protagonist would have to sacrifice themselves. They would spend most of the last installation of the series struggling with this idea and eventually come to peace with it. When Harry Potter faced Voldemort, he fully expected to die. He survived thanks to a clever narrative work-around, that the “evil” parts of him had been killed, but he himself came out alive because he chose to survive. What could have been a theme too dark for children’s story was quickly re-framed as a moral tale about perseverance.

Suicide in this genre is not framed as a mental health issue. Rather, it is shown to be inevitable – that in order to gain peace, something just as precious must be sacrificed. The goal of these stories was always to show that any child as “normal” as the readers could easily be a hero should they step up to the challenge – that even if all the protagonist has to offer is their life, they would be brave enough to give even that away for the greater good.

In the mid-2010s, conversations about mental health grew more frequent, especially on the internet. Topics that were previously taboo were brought out more, and pushes were made to have productive discussions about common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. By pure coincidence, this was the same time as the third golden age of television. The result of this coincidence was the production of many new TV shows trying to portray mental health issues. Shows like Fleabag, Bojack Horseman and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are widely acclaimed for skilful and realistic portrayals of mental health issues.

Many shows have talked about suicide, but one that has, controversially, stayed in the forefront of the genre is Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. Adapted from the Jay Asher novel of the same name, the story follows high schooler Clay Jensen, who traces a series of cassette tapes left by former classmate Hannah Baker chronicling the situations that led to her suicide. The book itself was met with mixed responses, but the show was widely criticised for its portrayal of mental health issues. It features a long scene graphically showing Hannah’s method of committing suicide, as well as depictions of self-harm and sexual violence. The suicide scene in particular was deemed unnecessarily gory by viewers, and many mental health experts have agreed that it violated the guidelines of depiction of suicide. Immediately after the release of the show, there was a marked increase in teen suicide rates as well as an increase in the web searches for methods to commit suicide.

13 Reasons Why attempts honest conversations about mental health, but it was overshadowed by how the gory scenes were sensationalised, particularly the suicide scene. Regardless of the intentions, the impact of the show has been an increase in teen suicides and triggering of mental health issues in vulnerable individuals. It stands as a good example of why mental health representation should be handled sensitively.

A more subtle, and perhaps more realistic, representation of suicide is in the popular Korean drama, 쓸쓸하고 찬란하神 – 도깨비 (Guardian: The Lonely and Great God).  The story follows Kim Shin, a Goblin who is punished with near immortality for the lives he took protecting his country. The only way he can die is if the sword in his chest is removed by his fated bride. Ji Eun-Tak, a high schooler with a tragic past, has known she is the Goblin’s bride since she was a child, but does not know what that entails. The show deals with the metaphysics of death on a much more obvious stage, with the second male lead being a Grim Reaper, and “the Almighty” being an unseen yet constantly referenced being, assumed to be orchestrating everything. The themes of suicide are masked by questions about fate and fear but still they are prevalent throughout the show.

Kim Shin is shown to want to die from the moment he gains immortality, and is frustrated by his inability to do so. To him, his own death is not a tragedy, but rather a sweet relief. The show goes against expectations by showing Kim Shin and Eun-Tak as two sides of the same coin: Kim Shin, who has waited centuries for death, represents life in all its burdens and beauties. Eun-Tak, who has waited a decade to finally be able to live, represents death in its blunt suddenness. Kim Shin’s centuries-long desire for death is suddenly within reach, yet he finds himself finally wanting to live day by day. The cocktail of emotional portrayed – exhaustion, fear, indecision, longing – shine through the fantastical elements of the story to show the reality of the nature of suicide.

In the film industry, a personal standout among the many films depicting suicide is The Skeleton Twins. Starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as long-estranged twins. The film starts with Milo and Maggie simultaneously attempting suicide but only for Maggie to be interrupted as she gets a call from a hospital that her brother has been admitted for attempting suicide. The story follows the siblings reconnecting after a decade, and slowly healing through their rekindled relationship. It portrays the tough reality of invisible mental illness – the main characters are aware of their issues, but are simultaneously in denial. Suicide in this film is neither an attention-grab nor a tragedy, it is an escape from the exhaustion of existence. It weaves through the story to explain the characters’ emotions but is never used as an excuse to justify their actions.

In musical theatre, Dear Evan Hansen has stood out as a successful musical that openly deals with the themes of suicide. The story follows Evan Hansen, who is mistaken as the best friend of Connor Murphy, a classmate who recently committed suicide. Rather than immediately clearing up the confusion, Evan gets entangled in a web of lies trying to pretend that it was true. He uses the mistake to create a campaign for suicide and mental health awareness, all while making increasingly immoral choices. The representation of suicide in Dear Evan Hansen is interesting in that the actual victim is actually only in a handful scenes and the rest of his appearances are as Evan’s imagination of him. The show is a great mediation on how suicide affects the life’s of  people around the victim and the legacy left behind in teen suicides.

The purpose of art is to reflect the world and to leave an impression for  the future generation’s of how the people of the past experienced the world. To that end, increased representation of suicide and of mental health issues as a whole, is important in order to showcase the shift towards sensitivity and healing that society now seems to be pushing towards. However, rather than sensationalising it, the focus should be on realistic and sensitive depictions. Suicide is a multi-faceted phenomenon. There is no one way to fully describe what leads to a suicide or what comes after. Perhaps no art will ever be able to perfectly capture it but  even if they are able to stimulate meaningful conversations, they  will definitely helping saving a life.

Hasitha Durgavajjhala
Hasitha Durgavajjhala

A student pursuing a Master’s degree in biotechnology in Noida, India, and a member of SAC’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness campaign. A passionate advocate for mental health. Lover of TV, sunsets and my cat.

Covid19 Vaccine- A race for life

Written By: Hana Iqbal

Overcrowded hospitals, overworked doctors and nurses, crippling economy, stock market crashes, quarantines and isolations, unemployment, human rights issues, protests, and; one solution- The Vaccine.

It’s a vaccine that’s most likely to bring an end to the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists from all over the world have been on edge; as they are busy researching for the vaccine[1]; waiting for a breakthrough.. Over 135 vaccines are undergoing development at a pace we have never seen before. 

What exactly do we want from this vaccine and What is our ‘goal’?

It is to generate an immune response with fewer (adverse) side-effects.

The world’s first Phase III trials of an inactivated vaccine for COVID-19 are being held in the United Arab Emirates. ‘A shot for humanity’ is taken by the  volunteers. UAE was chosen due to its diverse population. With over 107 nationalities taking part in the program, UAE had reached the 15,000 target volunteers in less than a month.[1]

CoronaVac (China), mRNA-1273(US), Ad5-nCoV(China) and Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) live-attenuated vaccine are among other candidates in Phase III.

US-based Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech announced positive results for the Phase 1 trial of their second Covid-19 vaccine candidate, revealing that the latest vaccine candidate has fewer side effects than their first. 332 people who received either vaccine, referred to as vaccines B1 or B2 – and indeed, B2 recipients experienced markedly fewer adverse events tied to the vaccine.[2]

Both vaccines use mRNA – the genetic messenger that our body uses to make the DNA code into proteins – packaged inside a fatty capsule, called a lipid nanoparticle, that allows it to get into cells. The mRNA instructs cells to make a protein, which then triggers the immune system into action.[2]  It is expected to come in early  October.

Meanwhile, phase III clinical trials for a Russian coronavirus vaccine are due to run in the Philippines from October to March 2021. Saudi Arabia too announced plans to conduct a clinical trial of another China-developed vaccine on at least 5,000 volunteers. The vaccine has produced an immune response in earlier trials in China. [3] Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become widely available by mid-2021[4]

Meanwhile, let’s stick to washing hands, sanitizing, wearing masks and gloves, and staying at home as much as is possible from our side!

Resources:

  1. Helga Jensen-Forde | Reach by Gulf News. “A Shot for Humanity: UAE’s Vaccine Trial for Covid-19.” Health – Gulf News, Gulf News, 16 Aug. 2020, gulfnews.com/uae/health/a-shot-for-humanity-uaes-vaccine-trial-for-covid-19-1.1597321901252.https://gulfnews.com/uae/health/a-shot-for-humanity-uaes-vaccine-trial-for-covid-19-1.1597321901252
  2. Ians. “Covid-19: Pfizer-BioNTech Second Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Less Side Effects.” Khaleej Times, Khaleej Times, 21 Aug. 2020, www.khaleejtimes.com/coronavirus-pandemic/covid-19-pfizer-biontech-second-coronavirus-vaccine-shows-less-side-effects.https://www.khaleejtimes.com/coronavirus-pandemic/covid-19-pfizer-biontech-second-coronavirus-vaccine-shows-less-side-effects
  3. “UAE’s Phase III COVID-19 Inactivated Vaccine Trial Achieves Milestone of 15,000 Vaccinated Volunteers from 107 Nationalities.” Wam, www.wam.ae/en/details/1395302862000.    https://www.wam.ae/en/details/1395302862000
  4.  Gallagher, James. “Coronavirus Vaccine: When Will We Have One?” BBC News, BBC, 21 July 2020, www.bbc.com/news/health-51665497.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-51665497

Hana Iqbal
Hana Iqbal

Born and raised in UAE, Hana Iqbal is a 3rd year medical student with love for writing, research and everything that has to do with making a positive impact. With her work, she hopes to motivate and help people to live life to their fullest. One quote she lives by is “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

THE HEALING POWER OF MUSIC

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”− Einstein, 1929.

Music is a fundamental attribute of the human species. Virtually all cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, make music. From the earliest days of civilization, music has been used to heal the body and soul, and to express what is difficult to articulate in words. Music is in many ways the fabric of our lives and the definition of society.

Music has a great impact on mental health and music therapy, combined with talk therapy boosts dopamine levels, the hormone which plays a role in reward-motivation behavior. Studies conducted by researchers have found that music releases the hormone dopamine, the feel-good chemicals in our brain. It has also been found that dopamine was up to 9% higher when volunteers listened to music that they enjoyed. It may be obvious to us, but it is strong evidence for the link between music and mental wellbeing.

Music acts as a medium for processing emotions, trauma, and grief—but music can also be utilized as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or dysregulation.1

Listening and creating music within a therapeutic context allows individuals to express themselves in nonverbal ways. The interplay of melody, harmony, and rhythm stimulate the senses of a person and promote calmness by slowing down the breath, heart rate, and other bodily functions.

The notion that music can influence your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors probably does not come as much of a surprise. If you’ve ever felt pumped up while listening to your favorite fast-paced rock anthem or been moved to tears by a tender live performance, then you easily understand the power of music to impact moods and even inspire action.

Listening to music, at least music with a slow tempo and low pitch, can calm people down even during highly stressful and painful events. It can also help with pain management, for example during childbirth.

So, instead of thinking of music as pure entertainment, consider some of the major mental benefits of incorporating music into your everyday life. You might find that you feel more motivated, happy, and relaxed as a result. Whenever you feel low, do try to listen to music that you like. Start your journey towards healing through music. Make it a part of your life and feel it.

Do check out our Spotify playlists specially created for helping us throughout the ups and downs of life.

Spotify playlist links: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0kh3eXjEprv7RGc6Bfj2AW?si=P5sI5U72TUWbDsM0Oo-Nuw

1)    Playlist 1- Good vibezzz, my friend, you are not alone! To help you find motivation

2)     Playlist 2- Sounds of Nature. To help you relax!

References:

1. Perry: Rhythm Regulates the Brain. Accessed August 31, 2020. https://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma-3/

Mahima Saptarshi
Mahima Saptarshi

A second year medical student in Mumbai, India. Very passionate about mental health and wishes to see a world where everyone can be unapologetically themselves!
“Students against COVID has been a wonderful platform for students across the globe to connect and form long lasting bonds!”

Priyanka Singh
Priyanka Singh

A final year Master’s in Biotechnology student from GNIPST, Kolkata, India. Avid member of “Suicide Prevention and Awareness” Campaign. Suggested to include ‘The role of music to spread positivity and help people to avoid negative thoughts’ for the campaign.
“Mahima was an amazing project partner who helped me throughout, without her it was impossible to complete this work. Subha, one our leads was always there for us, guiding us and helping us whenever we needed. Thank you Leah, Gul ,Subha and Komal for providing me this opportunity. Thanks to the entire team for always supporting us .”

HERSTORY- Not A Fairy Tale

Why is that something that is so fundamental to Women end up being the most controversial in the Developmental agenda?

Joyce Banda (Former President of Malawi)         

Women’s bodies continue to give birth to all of civilization and yet have been neglected for centuries. The situation has been worsened by the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic. Around the world, women face a variety of heightened risks due to the pandemic, be it health instability, economic instability or lack of social protection. The Sexual and Reproductive Women’s Health sector has undeniably been affected and calls for immediate measures to curb the situation.

Although WHO issued its guidance to continue giving the essential services across the globe, the sexual health sector often goes unacknowledged. Many health care centres are shut down imposing a threat to safe delivery care services. Reduced antenatal visits and follow-ups, diversion of the healthcare professionals and resources to response efforts, and doctors fearing the risk of infection threatens to exacerbate limited access to care and negatively impacts women’s health. As witnessed during the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014-2016, the use of reproductive and maternal healthcare services plummeted so much that maternal and neonatal deaths and stillbirths indirectly caused by the epidemic outnumbered direct Ebola-related deaths.(1)

The situation has been compounded by deprioritisation of important services like safe abortion and access to contraception services. Natalie Kanem, the executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), predicts that there could be up to 7 million unintended pregnancies worldwide because of the crisis, with potentially thousands of deaths from unsafe abortion and complicated births due to inadequate access to emergency care.(2)More unsafe births, less access to contraceptives and increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases can escalate the number of active HIV cases, and cervical cancers, thus adding to the burden.

Travel restrictions imposed by the governments, shortage of medications, clinicians and resources, lack of awareness and credible information, fear of taking public transportation in the midst of a pandemic seem to be major obstacles in seeking reproductive healthcare particularly in low income societies. The World Health Organization reports that one in three women experience sexual violence which has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.(3) In South Africa, a national hotline that receives reports of sexual violence saw a three-fold spike in calls after the country-wide lockdown took effect.But while there was an increase in reports, there was a simultaneous decrease in clinic visits for accessing care for sexual violence.(4)

The COVID-19 pandemic should not be treated as an excuse to restrict women’s access to essential sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Safeguarding basic healthcare rights should be an integral part of the pandemic response efforts. There must be a more equal distribution of the decision making power in the healthcare system. Telemedicine and strengthening comprehensive sexual education can be used to expand access to sexual and reproductive health services. Women’s healthcare rights need to be protected, now and always

Dispel the Ignorance, Act with Prudence.”

References:-

(1). Khalid F. Implications of Covid-19 on maternal health: Lessons from the 2014 Ebola outbreak. DAWN.COM. https://www.dawn.com/news/1560822. Published 2020. Accessed August 27, 2020.

(2).https://www.unfpa.org/press/new-unfpa-projections-predict-calamitous-impact-womens-health-covid-19-pandemic-continues. Published 2020. Accessed August 27, 2020.

(3). COVID-19 intensifies ‘brutal crime’ of sexual violence in conflict. UN News. https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066712. Published 2020. Accessed August 27, 2020.

(4). Women and girls face greater dangers during COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors Without Borders – USA. https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/what-we-do/news-stories/news/women-and-girls-face-greater-dangers-during-covid-19-pandemic. Published 2020. Accessed August 27, 2020.

Harkiran Kaur
Harkiran Kaur

Final Year Medical Student, India