The first good sign was hearing about the large number of community volunteers at this network of rural health centres and satellite clinics. The second and real test was hearing from the mothers on their perceived benefits through education and prevention, and how they would advise future mothers.
When I saw evidence of including not insensitive topics such as family planning and particularly gender-based violence, I was not surprised. If trust between the community and services is built over a number of years, with community leads and volunteers acting as bridges, there are no taboos to avoid. Mental health should come easy next!
The three young children in the waiting area also passed the secure attachment test – none of them would come to me!
There were a few pleasant surprises during the school mental health awareness workshops with young people and teachers:
When I asked what words had been used to invite pupils and parents, the inspiring headmistress shrug her shoulders: “mental health of course, they are fine with it”.
Indeed they were! Young people defined it as ‘state of mind’ that can help them achieve and cope better; reflected on what helped them recognise signs and, crucially; how they turned their mental state round when under strain.
Using exams as an example was a good start, but relating to help them focus on their cricket skills and make more runs seemed even better!
The test was whether health care professionals could relate child mental health to their role, rather than try to change it.
Their recommendations for improvements in practice speak volumes: “building relations with children, apply knowledge, give families more time, and increase team work with families’ involvement”.
So did their service recommendations: “more child-friendly environments, counselling corner for children, train fieldworkers for outreach follow-ups to increase access, and extend monthly mothers’ meeting to incorporate parenting work”.
Special thanks to a brilliant headmistress and co-facilitator! Everybody seemed to smile at the end – hmmm, quite everybody…