Today we interviewed the man we travelled here to meet, Syrian psychiatrist Dr. Abo-Hila. As soon as we started talking to him, his wife Hala, and his mother sat down close to us. They listened carefully to the interview. His mother prayed for the whole hour we were together. We could feel her presence. She was taking care of her son. She laughed when her son asked her how much of the interview (in English) she understood. She said she didn’t need to understand the language because she could feel the magnitude of what he was saying.
This is an excerpt from Pauline Holdsworth’s blog for the International Reporting Program at UBC Journalism.
The IRP is a course where 10 students are selected to report on under-covered global issues. Past classes have worked on stories about illegal logging, access to pain medication, the murders of Brazilian Indigenous leaders and China’s environmental movement.
Students have travelled all over the world to cover these topics from Russian Far East to the rainforests of Brazil.
This year’s reporting teams are headed to Benin and Togo in West Africa, Jordan and India to report on global mental heath.
While diseases like AIDS, malaria and Ebola get most of the global health headlines, mental illness is actually the leading cause of disability worldwide, and it remains one of the world’s most neglected diseases. That’s why the World Health Organization has termed it a “hidden emergency.”
“Not only do these people have to suffer in countries that typically do not have the resources to treat these conditions, but they also have to try to function in societies that are, in many cases, far behind on appreciating that mental illness is a medical illness, and nothing to be ashamed of,” said director of the International Reporting Program, Peter Klein.
The students are not only reporting on the scope and scale of the global mental health crises, but they are also looking at solutions. Click here to follow our teams as they report their stories.
This year’s international reporting project is also part of UBC’s first ever crowdfunding platform.