How nice to be back at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health journal, almost a decade after the six-year editorial adventure. What was more important was to experience the advances in the field in publishing a Global Child Mental Health Special Issue and attracting high quality publications, whereas in the past we had lengthy discussions even on scarce individual contributions. A big thanks to ACAMH for making it happen and for broadening the evidence agenda!
Only a couple of hours earlier at the workshop I had gone through a key slide on following children’s clues to share trauma in their own time. Yet it took me some time to work out that I missed them when I visited a school in Rio de Janeiro.
We talked football – as you do in Brazil – then the children asked a few questions on my flight. I took it as usual curiosity – although I had to stress that I had not come on a private jet. Then one boy asked me if it was safer that the small plane that had crashed in Colombia wiping out the whole Chapecoense Brazilian football team. Another boy asked me if I supported them – everyone should support Chapecoense now. What was my favourite colour? Unknowingly (and maybe subconsciously), I pointed at my dark green WACIT t-shirt, the same colours as Chapecoense.
Only much later did I realise that this day 30th November was only two after the actual anniversary of that fateful accident in Colombia.
It is so rare to see the three levels of policy, practice and children in one day, yet it happened in Rio de Janeiro! The systematic approach of an educational municipality interprofessional committee with operational networks in each of the 11 districts was impressive.
But I wanted to follow-up the workshop with a school visit and see some of the teachers of the earlier workshops in action. They did not disappoint, at a school applying mental health literacy with ASEC, Juliana and Paola for some time. The only (nice) problem is that I have been invited to schools across the remaining 10 districts – next time and Obrigado!
The start was surreal, at least for me: Pre-school children rehearsing ‘Santa Claus coming to town’ in the summer and near the beach? Then the questions were tough – any photos from Greece? I just about managed to sell the Acropolis, but the older children were not impressed with the sight of moussaka (but then neither do most Greek children – wrong choice, should have gone for a kebab).
What was absolutely real was the quality of the school that was virtually a community centre for disadvantaged children and their families. The superb headteacher’s energy and drive rubbed off to a great teacher group and ultimately to the little ones. No surprised they were sociable, disciplined and inquisitive. I especially loved the tree of hope!
Maybe it is the dynamic of a smaller group that bonds it quickly – even if interprofessional in nature. Usually photos come at the end, but not today!
Good insight though in schools’ hard input in areas of disadvantage throughout the age range. And some interesting role for vulnerable older teenagers in preparing them for training and employment, even in involving them in environmental work.
I loved this arrangement from our hosts, that participants would bring a treat for children at a local orphanage, and in return we could have the venue for free! Often getting into debates whether only mental health professionals have a therapeutic role because they can provide therapy, I suggested that if the biscuits have a pastoral role, how could not everyone else in the room?
And of course they did, with adventurous remits across agencies for vulnerable groups. The overwhelming need came across, being faced with poverty and violence in the favelas, but so did the commitment and innovation. Our last case was pretty tough, with just negative vibes at the start. Yet at the end a number of interventions were put forward at all four levels of the ecological framework (child, family, school and community). This was not a theoretical exercise at all.
Sport is a wonderful opportunity for both universal and targeted psychosocial interventions. But it has been hard to get clubs to see the link. One needs broad-minded coaches and clubs like Milon in Athens. The Ergo NGO and our brilliant volunteers grabbed the opportunity. Have a great start with the programme next week!