I clearly remember waking up and suddenly
realizing that I was on a plane; It was the sunlight that woke me
up. I looked out through the small window and all I could see was a
puddle of clouds and little shy mountains trying to scratch the
sky. I thought to myself, “wow that looks pretty amazing.” For a
long time I kept staring through the tiny piece of glass. There was
a higher mountain, it was rather distant, but looked pretty
confident; I wondered if it could be Machu Picchu?
Yes, I was landing in Lima.
Dr David Jimemez (SUD President) and Elena Chavez (President of
ALAMO)There she was, at the airport waiting for me. One of the most
inspiring women I have ever met. Her name: Elena. We had already
spent months emailing each other back and forth and speaking on the
phone whilst planning the visit. Elena Founded Alamo – the first
association of psychiatric patients in Peru – in 1999.
During this visit I had the opportunity to meet with the
National Committee of Mental Health at the ministry of Health. I
also visited different psychiatric hospitals and care homes.
Peruvians? It’s simple, they are amazing and
Altogether, I spent ten days in Peru and got to meet incredible
mental health professionals, amazing people and definitely left the
country knowing that I will come back to see my friends.
I was amazed by how much can be done with very little. I visited
a care home where only four people looked after thirty-two patients
with learning disabilities and severe behavioural problems. Elena
works very hard to keep ALAMO going despite the fact that they have
recently lost funding. The ministry of health has also worked hard
in regards to mental health. Dr Cristina Iguaguren (Medical
Director of University Hospital Larco Herrera) is incredibly
passionate about the implementation of Mental Health services and
the endorsement of Human Rights.
We all worked really hard, on strategies and logistics,
developing services to improve the quality of mental health care
and ensure that human rights are not compromised at all.
Whilst visiting ALAMO I spent the entire day with patients,
fathers, mothers, friends and people that somehow have been
affected by mental health problems of all forms. I found it was the
most rewarding day of the trip! We laughed, ate good food and
reflected on the development of Psychiatric care in the
I left Peru full of energy and enthusiasm! Back in London, I am
full of something hard to describe, perhaps pride? I was inspired
by what I had seen and resolved to do what I could to share the
expertise of colleagues in Europe with South American countries. At
the same time I had become, in only 10 days, aware of the immense
resources and resolve to change things that existed in Peru and how
I wanted to help without imposing my own Euro-centric beliefs which
have so often hindered the developing world. To this end I set up
an organization called Sud-World which aims to do this with
the help of like-minded colleagues.
If you ask me how to describe Peruvians?
It’s simple, they are amazing and optimistic. We are currently
working hard together for better Mental Health Care, better
services and increased promotion and prevention in Mental Health
with a view to ultimately making sure that we provide high
standards of care to everyone.