Training Workshops on Mental Health Interventions for Better Care and Management of Institutionalized Children and Young Adults

The two-day Training Workshops on “Mental Health and Interventions for Better Care and Management of   Institutionalized Children and Young Adults”, organised by Udayan Care, in partnership with Indian Institute of Psychotherapy Training, New Delhi, and Centre for Child & Adolescent Wellbeing (CCAW), on 19th & 20th December 2014 at India International Centre, New Delhi, brought together nearly 100 participants from various NGOs, government officials, CWC members, mental health professionals, and students.

Key Objective of the Workshops

  • To train and build capacity in therapeutic techniques of NGOs staff, volunteers and professionals in addressing mental health issues, related to attachment, loss, grief and trauma, faced by institutionalised children.

Expected Outcomes

  • Stakeholders’ understanding of impediments facing children in institutions related to such mental health issues as attachment, loss, grief and trauma, enhanced.
  • Assessment capabilities of stakeholders towards the mental health needs of children developed.
  • An Empowered group of trained cadre of social workers, staff member and volunteers, capable of addressing mental health issues, related to children in institutions, in place.
  • A module of trainings developed, related to mental health, which can be further perpetuated.

Total of four workshops were available for the participants across two days and the resource persons consisted of a panel of very eminent and distinguished mental health professionals who conducted the workshops in a very interesting and interactive manner. The first item in the agenda was a mesmerizing performance by the little children of Sanskriti School, who beautifully enacted a poem on Bachpan (childhood), written by one of their teachers, Ms. Pragya Mishra and conceptualized by another, Ms. Jyoti Dhawan. Dr. Kiran Modi, Managing Trustee, Udayan Care, in her welcome and keynote address shared some of her early experiences which enriched her understanding about mental health issues of children in institutional settings. She recognized from these experiences that these children need extra care and protection, who arrive to the care homes with unimaginable trauma and that it is important to understand the mental health issues of children in order to respond accordingly. Dr. Modi emphasized on the urgent need of qualified staff to help the children recover from their emotional damages and to help them cope with their past. Therefore, these workshops are expected to provide a common ground for the stakeholders to engage in exploring ways of dealing with the major challenges that can come in the way of creating a better world for children.

About the workshops: Dr. Achal Bhagat conducted the first workshop on “Discovering and Caring for the Child in Every Case” where he explained how every child is unique and need to accept them as they are. It is important to handle the issues with the child’s participation. According to him it is essential to learn the skill of gaining trust of children in difficult situations to help them. Focus on the strengths of the children and help them recognize what they can do, instead of pointing out their incapacities. Dr. Monisha Nayar-Akhtar conducted a workshop on Ego Resiliency and illustrated how children are born with an innate protective shield, which protects them from ordinary frustrations in life. However, some major traumas in a child’s life can break the stimulus barrier and rupture her protective mechanisms. The role of caregivers is to recognize the negative feelings without condemning or superimposing their values on the children. Ego resiliency is not restricted to the ability of the child to help oneself, but also the capacity to seek help. The third session was jointly conducted by three resource persons, Dr. Deepak Gupta, Dr. Vikram Dutt and Dr. Shilpa Gupta, on Working with Caregivers, and it was initiated by showing a video clipping and then an introduction to the care giving work. The challenges and limitations experienced by the caregivers were also discussed. It was pointed out that the caregivers experience frequent burnouts, which make them vulnerable to the overpowering emotions of anxiety, aggression and guilt. Only when caregivers are mentally balanced and feel cared for, can they create a nurturing environment for children in their care. Communication is an effective tool which can help the caregivers to establish constructive relationship with the children and gain their trust. Dr. Deepak Gupta explained about Psychological First Aid for kids and immediate steps that can be taken by caregivers or any professionals, to address the psychological crisis faced by a child. Dr. Monisha Nayar-Akhtar and Ms. Gloria Burret took up a session on Group Process where they explained the concept of group process and dynamics. It was emphasized how the groups provide essential purpose of providing support system in a crisis situation. The group process helps the caregivers to come out of their problems ranging from mental stress to developing friendly relations with their children.

Valedictory Session:Mr. Asheem Srivastva, the Member Secretary of NCPCR, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest during the valedictory session, and stressed on the importance of parental responsibility in his address to the audience.  He mentioned that parents and care takers have a major role in providing care and support to children.

The highlight of valedictory session was a skit presented by the Udayan Ghar (Mehrauli) children assisted by pandies’ theater group, which brought home the mental health issues children in institutions face. Dr. Vikran Dutt summed-up the entire two days’ key learnings during the valedictory session.

Outcomes Achieved:

The feedback received at end of the two days from the participants was quite heartening. According to them, these workshops helped them in understanding various mental health concepts and conditions of children in difficult circumstances. They felt that their knowledge of identifying and assessment capabilities of psychological issues of children were enhanced. However, the participants demanded that such workshops must be conducted more frequently to further build their capacities on early assessment and interventions of children in institutional care. Considering the vast scope and wide range of topics on mental health therapeutic techniques, it was felt that there is a lot to be achieved in order to empower the concerned stakeholders, who could effectively address and handle the mental health crisis of vulnerable children.