Overcoming mental health challenges as movement leaders and activists
Photo Credit: Minds of the Movement

Overcoming mental health challenges as movement leaders and activists

Human rights activist Beatrice Karore was five months pregnant when she was shot twice in the hips with rubber bullets and beaten by police Oct. 14, 2012, after a protest against lawlessness in Mathare, a shantytown in Nairobi, Kenya. Two hours earlier, Karore stood on a dirt road that transects the slum, staring at the bodies of two young men who’d been knocked off their motorcycle and clubbed to death. A crowd was gathering—angry, vocal, demanding that police take action. Karore, who was known as a social justice organizer and had made something of a name for herself by running for (but losing) a seat on the Nairobi County Assembly the preceding December, led the procession to the Humura Police Station in Nairobi.

Karore and other demonstrators were chased, captured, beaten, arrested and imprisoned. She lost the child in a miscarriage shortly thereafter, and descended into depression, nightmares, sleeplessness, and constant fear for her and her family’s safety.

Only the details make Karore’s story unique. The main themes—frustration, fear, physical and mental wounds—are common in dozens of nations where human rights work might be classified as an occupational hazard. Because no agency has addressed those hazards in the context of nonviolent civil resisters’ health, I founded Frontline Wellness United earlier this year with a group of healthcare providers and activists who’d volunteered in the chaotic Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance camps in North Dakota in the United States this past winter.

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