A little about me. My name is Aislinn Bradley; I am originally from Ireland. I am a registered psychologist and have worked in Child Protection and Mental Health & Psycho-social support, mainly in my home country. After completing a Masters in Humanitarian Relief and Emergency Management in 2015, I started working internationally. My missions include the Syrian response, the conflict & displacement emergency in Myanmar and the Iraq crisis.

Having participated in a conference facilitated by Dutch Surge Support and learning about the excellent work they were supporting, I registered in their Rapid Response Roster.

I am currently deployed for 3 months in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I arrived in October as an MHPSS Officer working with WHO as the receiving partner. My work here supports and facilitates MHPSS activities in emergencies, particularly within the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. It includes technical advice within the scope of standards, coordination and capacity building at all levels, including government, frontline staff and community health personnel. The context is fascinating but has many challenges to navigate. You can go through a full range of emotions, excitement, confusion, guilt, happiness, sadness and so on in one day.

Understanding and taking a proactive approach and care of our mental health has always been important for good health outcomes in communities. Only in the last few years have UN agencies and societies raised it to the forefront and really prioritised it. Even more so now globally, due to the added negative effects of COVID-19 on communities. This has been more important than ever. Most recently, WHO Sierra Leone was one of the leading agencies responding to the oil tanker explosion in a local district ‘Wellington’ on 5 November. Over a hundred people died at the scene. Similar numbers were admitted to hospitals throughout Freetown. MHPSS was an integral part of the emergency response to support those directly and indirectly affected by this disaster. I began working with many of the frontline workers post-emergency. Here, a crucial part of the workshops I delivered focused on self-care. After such an event, this area is a crucial component of recovery.

The team I work with are very supportive. The local communities are so warm, friendly and welcoming. Although life can be difficult, Sierra Leoneans love to socialise. No matter what, there is a carnival vibe available throughout the city every weekend.