International Day.

Today was, by far, my favourite day. Led by a lecturer from Iran, the day involved watching an Iranian movie and hearing from three different speakers who had different cultural experiences. I personally believed the talks to be fascinating, but a couple of my friends didn’t think so, as they left at lunchtime to go shopping. I was actually surprised when they did so, but they thought they were culturally sensitive enough. Now, I think I’m far more culturally aware than they are (both of them are English-born-and-bred), and I still thought I could learn something from today. But then, it may be because of my international background that I’m interested in international practice.

Girls, if you stumble across this, shame on you for your arrogance. Just because your boyfriend is half-Bangladeshi doesn’t mean you’re worldly.

Anyway, to start the day, the lecturer played about forty minutes of an Iranian film titled Soul Mate. It’s about a man recently released from a mental hospital who meets a single mother of two. It turns out her ex-husband divorced her because she, too, had a mental illness. They impulsively marry and must subsequently face the community’s disapproval, fighting for their right to live normally. The movie was released in 2004 in Farsi with English subtitles.

As occupational therapy students, we were expected to observe the main character and assess his occupational performance level, as well as the factors which impact on his occupational life. What stood out most to me in that first half of the movie is that the man wants to live a normal life, but the stigma he faces and the sick role he is forced to assume by his brother and sister-in-law doesn’t allow him to. He lives under the constant threat of being taken back to the asylum, as in Iran at the time, one’s family or the police could simply take you to a mental hospital if they thought you were acting strange (or didn’t want to deal with you). There weren’t the laws and procedures protecting people’s autonomy like there are here in the UK.

As for the talks, we heard from a mental health OT who took up a fellowship in Tanzania, a woman (not OT) who has worked with travellers (AKA gypsies) for twenty years and an OT from Jordan or Palestine (I can’t remember which now!) who worked for some time in Palestine as an OT and reflected on how people use occupation to build their resilience during the Israeli occupation. (She called it Surviving Occupation Through Occupation, which I thought was quite clever.)

This was a valuable and absorbing experience, and I wish we had more opportunities to explore international practice in this course!