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Update on our work

News 1 September 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope you’re well and getting through these extraordinary times.

Thank you so much for your support for our community of torture survivors, which has helped them cope through these very difficult recent months. 

We wanted to share with you how your support has helped us adapt our therapeutic work since lockdown, through the eyes of one of our experienced therapists, Emily White, who has written this letter for you today.

Emily White, Psychotherapist, Room to Heal

“With the arrival of coronavirus, we had limited time to prepare and discuss the implications with members before we went into lockdown. On Tuesday 10th March, the community met as usual, gathering to talk, cry, laugh and eat together. One week later, we were all being told not to leave our homes. 

For members, this sudden, unplanned rupture in the therapeutic process could feel reminiscent of previous experiences of separation and loss. Many of our members have survived detention  – in their home countries and/or in the UK – and describe the lockdown as a new ‘confinement’, which triggers memories of these traumas. 

Some of our community members have started to relive those past experiences more frequently, in the form of flashbacks or nightmares. As a result, we’re witnessing an increase in sleep problems, anxiety, panic and depressive symptoms.

Sudden loss of face-to-face group therapy at Room to Heal

Room to Heal’s central ethos is that we heal best collectively. This pandemic has forced the community apart, presenting a significant challenge. 

As a team, we had to make quick decisions about how to maintain a sense of community and connection without being able to physically be together. 

The therapists started calling group members every Tuesday from the beginning of lockdown, providing one-to-one telephone therapy at the time when these members would normally be sitting in their therapy group. 

During these calls, we relayed messages from other members. They wrote poems for one another, shared tips on how to cope, and consistently expressed a longing to be together and increased feelings of isolation. 

Repeatedly, they would refer to the group as their ‘family’. These messages highlighted the importance of Room to Heal’s groups so, shortly after the lockdown, we started to fundraise for laptops and internet access for all group members, so they could connect with each other once again.

In the meantime, by providing regular telephone therapy, we were able to maintain some consistency and provide in-depth, personalised support in response to the specific challenges each member faced as a result of the lockdown. 

Room to Heal members have often experienced detention before 

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t affecting everyone equally. Room to Heal members are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. 

To get a sense of the challenges they face, imagine lockdown living in poverty, in shared accommodation, with multiple physical and mental health conditions, a limited support network, no internet access, no phone credit, and worrying about family in countries with limited healthcare provision.

The therapists can help members manage the psychological impact of these issues, whilst our caseworkers respond to the practical problems, where possible.

Delivering laptops to members during lockdown

We were fortunate to receive funding for laptops and so, in May, one of our therapy groups was able to meet for the first time since lockdown.  Whilst we met online, the excitement and joy members expressed at being able to see other’s faces was incredibly moving.

Many members have talked about how being separated has highlighted the importance of the relationships they have developed at Room to Heal. As one member said to me:

“Life is nothing except for love… all this I learnt from the group.”

We’ve been running two therapeutic groups remotely each week for a couple of months now. It has been incredibly moving seeing how group members have cared for and supported one another through this crisis. The groups have been very intimate. The depth of connection has pleasantly surprised me, given we are not meeting in person. Bonds have strengthened and members have yet again demonstrated the power of collective resilience. 

Thank you for your generous support, which has helped ensure members continue to be supported through these challenging times.” 

Emily, Psychotherapist

Member on retreat last year, we hope to be back there soon

As Emily says, your support has helped us continue our services through lockdown and will help us continue to support members through the next few months – thank you so much for staying with us through these difficult times. 

“If I say thank you, it means more than thank you to Room to Heal. I really mean it, they help a lot, they are an amazing  group… Room to Heal cares about people, that is all that matters. I feel confident every time I think of Room to Heal, when I worry, it is very important to me.” 
(Group member, May 2020)

Take care and many thanks again for all your support,

Director, Room to Heal

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