Based on reflecting on the experience of working with an Afghan widow, this essay unfolds the challenges and dilemmas of providing aid for vulnerable populations whose voices are rarely heard. Though global health policy makers and practitioners are fully committed to achieving universal health care, it is easy to overlook the fact that people’s suffering and emotional pain from conflicts and structural violence are multi-layered. The expression of their painful feelings, illness as a result of suffering, and help-seeking are deeply embedded in particular socio-cultural contexts and historical processes. This essay shows the limitations of uncritical applications of Western biomedical concepts in addressing the gap of mental
health needs for people affected by violence.
I would like to thank Dr. Duncan Pedersen, who powerfully inspired me to develop critical insight within the field of Global Mental Health. I also thank my Afghan and Japanese colleagues for their constant support and encouragement throughout my time in Afghanistan.
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