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    AccueilNewsPNG: Support group sessions break silence on mental health needs, empower communities

    PNG: Support group sessions break silence on mental health needs, empower communities

    Some have walked for two hours across the green hills, but they look excited to see each other. They wipe off their sweat, dust themselves, settle down on mats laid out on the wooden floor and start singing a familiar song. As the voices blend, the women soak in the comfort of friendships and the safe space that they have created. For the next two hours they take a break from their long list of household chores and instead talk about experiencing violence of various kinds, their struggle with trauma and the coping mechanisms that have helped them. They listen to one another, grieve together, comfort and encourage each other, and learn how they can better handle their distress.

    The support group sessions, or “school” as the women call it, are empowering communities in PNG as they help people affected by violence (including sexual and gender-based violence) to identify signs of psychological stress, create the space to talk about it and find ways to support one another in the journey towards healing. Started in 2019 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) under its mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programme, more than 30 support groups have been organized across Southern Highlands, Enga and Hela provinces for more than 400 women of six communities till May 2023.

    The sessions were developed as part of our response to the humanitarian consequences of tribal fighting in PNG. It is particularly important here because the mental health system is very weak or even non-existent in most of the provinces

    shares Rebecca Piam, MHPSS field officer for the ICRC and the one who has been spearheading the programme.

    Strengthening the informal mental health system

    Stressing upon the correlation between violence and mental health issues, Christine Berger, the ICRC’s MHPSS delegate based in PNG, says that according to research at any given time around 22 per cent of people impacted by conflict suffer from mental health conditions. “Without awareness people are unable to identify the signs of distress and don’t know how to talk about it or the need to reach out for help,” says Berger.

    The support group approach goes beyond individual counselling, which is limited in reach, and instead looks at capacity-building of the informal mental health system of the community in a sustainable way. “Most participants have to start with learning to identify the signs of stress. Then they move on to using positive coping mechanisms that gradually improve their daily functioning. When they see changes in their own lives, they go back to their communities and families and share what they have learnt to help others,” says Piam.

    We acknowledge Source link for the information.



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