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Northern France, January 25-26, 2023

The delicate balance of supporting mental health in Calais was a theme across the last two days. Over seven years, we’ve had many discussions with both French and British NGOs about how to support refugees’ mental health. Our conversations often come down to the value of sitting with people and using the principles of Psychological First Aid (PFA) - look, listen and link.

The reality of this context is that the situation is dire, the majority of men slept outside last night in heavy rain as the night shelters weren’t open. New regulations have added to the fear and stress. Many people try to cross to the UK as they find they have no other choice.

At The Community Table we offered the tower building game ‘Jenga’ into the mix. We noticed it interesting metaphors, and that parallels can be made to our core themes of hoping and coping. You can always have another go and if the tower falls, both you and the bricks will survive. No one is getting hurt and everyone has the same chance.

The game has an element of the spectator. You learn from each other. The tower can re-find its balance, like a spine. It can go from stable to unstable and back to stable.

The game requires people to slow down and think. There is the opportunity to self regulate within the game. A shared experience is possible, other people get involved. Recognising how and why the tower fell, there is empathy; there is suspense and then release. Every decision is independent of each other and yet all connected. A game of chance, risk, balance, group; a chance to try again.

Words by Bobby Lloyd, Miriam Usiskin & Aida Silvestri

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