Some years ago I was asked to review a western text of child mental health symptoms aimed to help improve capacity in low-income countries. How far we’ve come since then…
At the Karachi interdisciplinary workshop, solutions were broad, holistic and interlinked. Some examples:
Child safety education, mentorship programme, parent support groups, life skills and stress management in school curriculum, wellness classes, teacher training, motivational and in school counselling, and clear referral system with supporting records.
Brilliant, mostly doable, and falling nicely under the 6 WACIT domains!
It is usually the other way round, but children had set the bar high that morning – could adult stakeholders come up with similarly sophisticated solutions?
I think they can be pleased! What was particularly gratifying was the chemistry between teachers from schools in disadvantaged areas and mental professionals and academics with a wider remit. There are always ways…
Starting with the mapping, accessing community resources included social networks, schools, faith-based, bonding and mutual supports, and creative potential of children and professionals. I particularly liked the model of Lady Health Workers that seems appealing to build on.
The beginning of the narrative on what constitutes positive mental health was interesting by the 14-year-olds in a disadvantaged area of Karachi. I particularly liked this girl’s definition of “being able to control one’s mind”.
Then most was about awareness and inclusion. Educate parents and teachers. Help children with difficulties not feel any different. Normalise activities at school and in the community. Loved the suggestion for a festival to invite parents and break stigma. And a half-joking observation of harsh realities – why are girls deprived of opportunities such as sport?
When they focused on what they wanted to say, they were absolute stars in front of the camera – not a negligible show of confidence that is credit to an amazing school and Principal.
This is part of a the development of a new digital training course on child mental health. And we wanted the children’s voice to come first – basically, tell the adults what to do to help them!
This was not the first participatory group in Karachi or this school, but the first attempt at this combination. So, we went through the lovely school, got our own young film making entrepreneur, and off we went!
We did not want children to go cold, so we sent the narrative and questions in advance, brain stormed with them as a group, gave them a choice how they wanted to present (pairs!), gave them time to chat in pairs, then filmed their focused suggestions. What were those? See next blog!For now huge thanks to Sajida and Hussain!
Thank you Ms Syeda for your tireless translation! And Sajida for driving this, as ever. Last week at a stakeholder event, participants were asking for presentation notes, but these are so much more practical and thought through. Needless to express our gratitude to Frances, who put all her teacher and psychology experience in developing them in the first place:
We have received more Greek translations from Matina too – anyone speaking both Urdu and Greek? If so, please come forward for special WACIT gift!
Existing, a lot to take in, and keeping some suggestions for now, as frantically revising our service intervention. Here are some biggies along the six WACIT domains:
Child: Participation, personalised care plans.
Families: Parent support, parent groups and clubs.
Schools and communities: Awareness, involving faith and other groups.
Upskilling staff: ongoing training, staff support.
Counselling: Safe space, psychological first aid.
Mental health services: Service information, early referrals.
And a lot more…can we deliver? Of course!
This was not a tokenistic workshop: neither strengths nor challenges were spared. But, like the academic group at Pretoria University, the first step was clear: start with existing resources, try to understand them as could be different from western countries, then build on them. Here are the big ones:
Community as resource (faith-based, children’s forums); links with communities and other stakeholders; diversity and range of local ‘players’; local knowledge and expertise; engagement through existing events; interdisciplinary team working; schools; social work; advocacy; passionate staff; peer mentors.