04 Mar 2022
By: Rose Atim

It is 8:30 in the morning, Nyalam receives the first call of the day. “Hello welcome to South Sudan Regional Hotline for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support”

The caller begins to narrate how he or she feels, Nyalam listens attentively until the caller finishes their talks, she then responds with empathy and understanding, reassuring the caller about confidentiality of their talk. She assesses if the caller needs more emotional support, subsequent to provision of psychological first aid (PFA) or needs referral to other services. She will then schedule for a follow up call in a later agreed date and time.

“This is how my day normally starts” says Nyalam as she puts down the phone. “People call from all around the Upper Nile to express their feelings and I listen, respond and support them in a way that will help them overcome their problems” Nyalam continue

During the Global COVID-19 Pandemic, the International Organization for Migration and partners introduced remote Mental Health and Psycho-social Support Services (MHPSS) through operation of a Regional Hotline for MHPSS in South Sudan to continue responding to people’s growing MHPSS needs through a toll-free line.

Nyalam Thomas a psychosocial mobile team member is among the eight counsellors trained in Malakal to listen to displaced, conflict or flood-affected individuals and provide remote emotional support or refer them to available and accessible services.

“I underwent a series of trainings on basic counselling and remote mental health and psychosocial support to improve my skills and knowledge in helping those in need. I am happy I got this knowledge which am using to help my fellow community members who need MHPSS services. I am also able to cater for my family’s needs including paying my children’s tuition with the salary I get from this job” says the 46 years old mother of two.

IOM’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support programme in Upper Nile provides MHPSS services to the communities in Malakal town, PoC and Baliet County. Supervised counsellors provide individual counselling, family/group counselling, psychological first aid (PFA) and remote counselling through the toll-free line.

“This toll-free line has made it convenient for people of all gender and age to call and express their feelings without fear. They feel more comfortable because they know it is confidential. In a day, I can receive calls from more than five people” says Nyalam.

IOM South Sudan’s MHPSS activities in Upper Nile are supported by Foreign, Commonwealth

& Development Office (FCDO), USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), and the UN’s South Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SSHF)

If you are in the Upper Nile, please dial 778 toll-free line for remote mental health and psychosocial support.

This story was written by Rose Atim, IOM South Sudan Project Assistant