EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL HEALTH WORKSHOP
Don Bosco Bal Prafulta had organized a workshop on Emotional and Mental Health on 3rd and 4th October, 2012, for the staff of various Government-run Children Homes and NGO Shelters. The resource speaker was Shravana Lata Gehlot who is a Community Development Leader of the Community Development Team at NHS Berkshire West, England. NHS Berkshire West is a primary health care trust that is responsible for commissioning health care from hospitals and other service providers including health services in the community and at home, i.e. in England.
The workshop began with an ice breaker in which the participants were divided into pairs and each person had to introduce his or her partner, and also mention one thing that the partner cannot live without. Following this the speaker began the first session. The first session focused on ‘Mental Health First Aid,’ which is an international programme that aims to safeguard, promote and improve children’s psychological, emotional and physical health and well-being. It also aims at improving child safety, preventing mental and emotional health problems.
The next topic covered in this session was the definition of mental health, in which the participants were divided into groups of four and were asked to each express and enlist their view of mental health and the various areas and issues it encompasses. The speaker also spoke on what is known as a ‘Mental Health Continuum,’ which is basically a scale that presents the entire range of mental and emotional well-being along a vertical axis and mental and emotional illness or disorders along a horizontal axis, such that when the two axes are imposed on each other, four quadrants are formed. The four groups of participants were each assigned a different quadrant and were then asked to create a fictional case-study i.e. a child in a difficult situation that reflects the degree of the mental and emotional well-being or illness of that respective quadrant.
Following this activity, the speaker asked us to identify the risk factors that make young people vulnerable to mental health problems, such as academic failure and exclusion from school, discrimination and racism, socio-economic disadvantage bullying, low self-esteem, risky sexual behaviour, substance misuse, unsettled or unstable home or family life, violence and abuse.
‘A Model of Personal Empowerment’ was presented by the speaker which gives us eight steps to empowering ourselves as well as others – Build a positive self-image; increase control and responsibility over one’s own life; support self-advocacy; give information; enable participation in service provisions; help the person to find creative options; help the person to plan for the future; and finally safeguard the person’s rights.
The speaker then introduced a magic word to us – ‘ALGEE’ – which stands for Ask, assess and act; Listen non-judgmentally; Give, reassure and inform; Enable the person to get the appropriate professional help; and Encourage self-help strategies. This word can be used as five step guideline to any intervention that we plan for a child in difficult situation.
Another idea given by the speaker was that of ‘Frame of Reference,’ that is a diagram which represents one’s own world, and what is closest to one’s own heart. The first circle should include what part of our world that is closest and most important to us; the second circle should include what is slightly less important to us; and the third circle should include what is least important to us. It can be used while working with children, to learn what is important to them at the present moment, and what the major influences in their lives are, and what specific personal issues within the child should be focused upon or brought into the focus of the child himself/herself.
The second session was on Depression and Anxiety, in which the definition, signs and symptoms, causal factors, risk factors and protective factors were highlighted. The speaker then explained how we could help a child suffering from depression or anxiety using ALGEE.
The third session was on ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid’ in which the speaker elaborated on the issues of suicide, its warnings signs, reasons, risk factors, and protective factors. Again the speaker spoke on how we can help someone who is suicidal i.e. having suicidal thoughts at the moment using ALGEE.
The workshop concluded with a session in which each group used ALGEE to develop an action plan to help empower the group’s respective child in the original difficult situation created. Following this, the speaker was thanked by our organisation for sharing her immense knowledge and experience with us. The participants were also thanked for their time and highly active participation. The participants expressed positive feedback about the experience of the workshop, and said that they gained a lot from it and would like to follow it up further with us. They also gave their suggestions for future workshops and said they are looking forward to participating in such programmes organized by us in the future.