With his permission, let me introduce you to Mohammad Marie. I know Mohammad as a PhD student in the Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies. He is also a mental health nurse and teacher, who (when he isn’t attending to his thesis in south Wales) works at An-Najah National University in Nablus, in the Palestinian West Bank.
Mohammad is interested in resilience, both generally and in community mental health nurses in particular. Through his writing I have gained a glimpse of mental health needs and services in the occupied Palestinian territories, and of the day-to-day realities of living and providing health care in this part of the world. Quite rightly, nurses in the UK complain about lacking resources, of coping with high caseloads and of the dangers of burnout. Here, however, we can barely comprehend the enormity of the challenge facing those who do nursing in Palestine. Human rights are violated, and free movement restricted. Access to medicines is limited, and rates of trauma and mental ill-health high. Few practitioners have had opportunities to develop knowledge and skills specific to the provision of mental health care. For readers wanting to know more, the World Health Organization has made available information on health and health services in Palestine here.
A simple question drives Mohammad’s study: given their circumstances, what are the sources of resilience which help community mental health nurses continue in their caring work? As part of laying out the background to his project Mohammad has introduced me to the uniquely Palestinian concept of ‘samud’. ‘Samud’ and ‘resilience’ look, to me, to be close cousins, with the former referring to steadfastness in the face of adversity. It manifests in individual and social action, as well as in specific policy (for example, to support the development of an infrastructure for public services). From what Mohammad tells me, samud has become an important part of Palestinian culture and identity.
To get answers to his research question, Mohammad returned home last year to generate data. In ethnographic style he observed nurses and other staff going about their day-to-day tasks, basing himself in a series of government and non-governmental community mental health centres. He read local documents relating to the organisation of services. In order to explore nurses’ experiences and views in depth, Mohammad conducted detailed interviews with a sample of practitioners. The absolute number of participants in this phase was modest, but still a majority of the total population of community mental health nurses working in the West Bank.
Right now Mohammad is surrounded by transcripts and notes, doing his best to make sense of everything he has seen, read and heard. It’s for him to tell the story of his findings, but I know these will be both interesting and important. I’m looking forward.