How’s everybody feeling? The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home to many of us the importance of maintaining our mental health, but it has been particularly hard on patients, caregivers, and health workers. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams offer mental health and psychosocial support as part of our emergency work around the world. We also provide training and support for our aid workers to help them cope with the stress, grief, anger, and frustration that often come with the job.
Join us on Thursday, October 15, for the next episode of our webcast series Let’s Talk, focused on the mental health challenges we face during the COVID-19 pandemic and in other emergency situations. We’ll compare our experiences from confronting the Ebola epidemic in Democratic Republic of Congo to facing the threat of the coronavirus in nursing homes in Europe and the United States. We’ll be in conversation with Sanne Kaelen, a clinical psychologist with MSF in Belgium; Ebony Lucas, a therapist and wellness support officer who worked with MSF in long-term care facilities in Detroit, Michigan; and Athena Viscusi, a clinical social worker and psychosocial care specialist for MSF-USA. Together with our host, MSF-USA executive director Avril Benoît, this expert panel will answer your questions about the psychosocial care MSF provides to our patients, health workers, and humanitarian workers in crisis situations. This special episode is part of our efforts to raise awareness around World Mental Health Day, October 10.
*Your registration gives you access to all events in this free discussion series. After you register, you’ll receive an email confirmation with the Zoom link to attend online and email reminders before each event (the link to join us online will be the same for all events). You’ll also have the option to dial in by phone.
Avril Benoît, MSF-USA executive director, has worked with the international medical humanitarian organization since 2006 in various operational management and executive leadership roles, most recently as the director of communications and development at MSF’s operational center in Geneva from November 2015 until June 2019. Throughout her career with MSF, Avril has contributed to major movement-wide initiatives, including the global mobilization to end attacks on hospitals and health workers. She has worked as a country director and project coordinator for MSF, leading operations to provide aid to refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants in Mauritania, South Sudan, and South Africa. Avril’s strategic analysis and communications assignments have taken her to countries including Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, and Syria. From 2006 to 2012, Avril served as director of communications with MSF-Canada.
Athena Viscusi, clinical social worker, is the Psychosocial Care Specialist for the US office of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). In this role she provides psychosocial support to humanitarian workers before, during, and after their MSF assignments. Previously, she directed mental health and psychosocial programs for MSF in several different countries, including work during the epidemic interventions for cholera in Haiti and Ebola in West Africa. Prior to MSF, Athena worked as a clinical social worker in Washington DC, mostly in the Latino community. Currently she provides pro bono psychological assessments for asylum applicants. Athena is a proud graduate of the Howard University School of Social Work and of Barnard College, with advanced training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Play Therapy, and Family Systems Theory.
Ebony Lucas is a therapist and wellness support officer who worked in long-term care facilities in Detroit, Michigan, during MSF’s COVID-19 operations in 2020. In this role, she helped facility managers to implement wellness strategies for their staff and provided psychosocial care to workers experiencing their own distress during this unprecedented time. Ebony currently works as a research assistant at Wayne State University’s Center for Urban Studies. She has worked as a therapist and case worker for different organizations in Michigan for over 17 years.
Sanne Kaelen is a clinical psychologist with MSF in Belgium. As the mental health activity manager for MSF’s COVID-19 projects in Belgium this year, Sanne facilitated trainings, developed mental health tools, and provided psychosocial support to health care staff on the front lines. She currently leads an operational research project focused on MSF’s COVID-19 response in long-term care facilities. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Sanne worked for MSF as a mental health supervisor in Central African Republic (CAR).