Stakeholders discuss new ways to promote children mental health

15Oct 2021
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
Stakeholders discuss new ways to promote children mental health

STAKEHOLDERS from various countries in Africa and across the globe are today concluding a three-day virtual forum aimed to discuss new robust measures that will help promote mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of children and youth in the continent.

Stakeholders from various organisations in public and private sector pose in a picture in Dar es Salaam after official opening of the 6th Psychological Support Forum.

Themed “Innovate. Integrate. Thrive”, the 6th Psychosocial Support Forum is blended by a main physical forum in Maputo, Mozambique, with satellite forums in Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and virtual for partners from around the globe.

The forum is organised by the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) and is conducted from October 13 to 15, this year.

Speaking during the opening of the forum this week Edwick Mapalala, REPSSI country director said the forum was aimed to discuss and share expertise so as to further help children to reach their potential.

She said that in Tanzania; Dar es Salaam and Kagera regions are national centres of the forum where some stakeholders have met physically with others virtually.

“During the forum, participants will have an opportunity to share lessons on how to prioritize the resourcing of programmes that promote the mental health of staff and volunteers. It will also discuss deeply on early pregnancies and Gender Based Violence (GBV),” she said.

Mapalala said for nearly 20 years REPSSI has conducted research, developed resources, delivered innovative training so as to further support the provision of required support to children.

She noted that increasingly, studies also show that PSS interventions are an effective protective mechanism against child abuse and violence.

“We will discuss deeply on how Covid-19 pandemic has affected children, social workers and other stakeholders which in one way impacted their development and aspiration,” she said.

She said as Covid-19 has continued to bring sorrow and tears among many, having robust strategies which include provision of psychosocial support to groups in need is vital.

Sharing her experience of Covid-19 pandemic, Mary Msuya from the Care and Treatment Clinic (CTC) at Mwananyamala hospital said the disease brought fear not only to the public but also to health workers.

“At first, the disease brought a lot of fear to us, we all feared of falling ill and dying, but after several measures taken by the government and stakeholders to train and ensure our safety, the situation improved,” she said.

Msuya recalls when she got ill and faced several challenges including discrimination.

“Some of my neighbours abused me shouting that I have brought the disease to infect them. But also I remember when I went to hospital no one wanted to touch my health insurance card, so the situation was hard and I was going through pain," she said.

She said the disease affected smooth provision of clinic services to children and mothers.

Jeanne Ndyetabura, REPSSI Tanzania board chair underscored the need for the government and stakeholders to work collaboratively and strengthen psycho-social support in various areas including schools, health centres and at community level so as to protect children and youth.

“We need to train and hire more social workers and stage them in various parts up to the grassroot levels so as to ensure that the public are educated and children are served when they face challenges.