Open Doors, Nikopol, Ukraine (Громадська організація “Відкриті двері””) won a BEARR Trust grant for their project ‘Respect for Human Rights in the Field of Health – Mentally Ill People in Ukraine’ in 2017.
The NGO organised 10 monitoring visits to psychiatric hospitals in Dnipropetrovsk region, to monitor and analyse violations (including cases of torture and ill-treatment), conducted more than 120 interviews with patients and their relatives, issued a full report evaluating institutional care for people with mental disabilities (available in Ukrainian at goo.gl/439ZEh). The report was sent to government officials, and to human rights and other non-governmental organisations in Ukraine, and a local press conference was held to raise awareness of the issues. As a result, a formal investigation was opened under Article 127 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Torture).
The NGO staff heroically travelled long distances (around 300km) to get to the hospitals, with each visit lasting approximately 10 hours.
Open Doors also provided legal assistance to those whose rights had been violated and their relatives (115 consultations in total); and organised a telephone hotline for those wishing to report violations of the rights of mentally ill people.
The Ukrainian Catholic University Український католицький університет University in Lviv (UCU) received a small grant from the BEARR Trust for the project ‘From thought to action, from action to heart: overcoming the stigma of mental health disorders’. The aim of the project was to raise public awareness of mental health issues in Ukraine and to train journalists about mental health.
UCU conducted a public round table where journalists, NGO staff and university students explored the possible ways of overcoming stigmatisation of mental health issues in Ukraine.
UCU also ran a three-day training course for journalists on how to cover mental health issues in the media. A brochure on appropriate language for talking about people with mental illnesses was published and distributed to regional media, companies and NGOs.
The project was also presented at the conference ‘Overcoming stigmatisation of Mental Health Disorders’, as well as on Lviv radio Львівське Радіо (Lvivske Radio)
Chernobyl Children’s Project, UK, in partnership with Supporting Children Together, Gomel, Belarus
“We have worked with the children’s department of the Psychiatric Hospital in Gomel on and off for almost twenty years. We have provided toys and equipment, delivered training and brought the Head of the Department on educational visits to the UK. But sadly very little seemed to change.
The Children’s Department held around 50 children from 3 to 15 years old and was nearly always full. Most children stayed for three weeks and the vast majority of them should not have been in the hospital at all. There is a great stigma in Belarus attached to having spent time in the Psychiatric Hospital, which can live with someone throughout their life.
Then three years ago the arrival of a new Director at the Hospital prompted us to try again. We brought him on a visit to the UK with the Region’s Director of Health to look chiefly at community care; brought the Chief Paediatric Psychiatrist on a visit too and began a programme of training in the educational sector for those working with children with autism, to try to keep such children out of the hospital.
The numbers of children staying in the hospital have now halved; a unit has been established for day patients and there is consensus that children with autism or ADHD should not generally be admitted to hospital.
In autumn 2017 we began a project funded by The Bearr Trust to work with children with mental health problems, aimed at keeping them out of the hospital. We employed the Regional Chief Paediatric Psychiatrist as a psychotherapist, and she worked with several psychologists, also employed half time through the grant, to support children and their families. Most of the work took place in the Regional Early Intervention Centre.
They worked with 60 children, sometimes individually or with their parents and more often in groups. There were group sessions for parents to discuss the problems their children were experiencing. Parents found great support from each other as well as from the professionals.
There was an individual session of body psychotherapy for each child once a week, and art therapy sessions which children undertook with their parents.
Families were visited at home if they requested this, or if a child was in crisis, and the whole family could be involved in the discussions. Siblings were included in the work as much as possible, for their own benefit and also for the understanding and support they could bring to the child experiencing problems.
Training was given to the staff of the project and many others working in this field, by a Child Psychiatrist and a Clinical Nurse Specialist from the UK.
At the end of the grant period, Chernobyl Children’s Project was able to continue the work on a slightly smaller scale for a further six months.
We know that the parents greatly appreciated the work carried out through this project and believe that it made a great difference to their children and to the relationships within their families.
In November I met four of the mothers who took part in the project and the three psychologists who have been working on it.
The mothers could not have been more enthusiastic about the support they received.”
The Centre for Women in the Modern World, Baku, Azerbaijan, with the Union of Women’s Centres of Georgia, have completed their project “Mental Health Among Refugee Women in Azerbaijan and Georgia: Awareness Raising Campaigns and Assistance”.
The NGO presented their project and held public discussion on the subject among the refugee women of the Shamakhi, Agsu and Ismayilli regions of Azerbaijan, where they recruited 120 women for 8 training sessions (15 participants for each session). The 4 training sessions in Georgia were attended by 46 women.
The training was a mix of theoretical and practical sessions, ranging from classroom-based lectures, films and interactive discussion, to role-plays, using symptom cards, and practising counselling sessions with community members.
The aim of these training sessions was to create a community of women who can then offer support and help to other women, reach community members in distress and those with severe mental health problems, and to spread knowledge about mental health and well-being.
The BEARR Trust is happy to see another Small Grants Scheme 2017 project succeed!
One of our Small Grants Scheme recipients in 2017 was the International Society for Human Rights in Armenia. Based on the 2015 World Psychiatric Association survey data, there are around 650,000 people with mental health issues in Armenia , only 60,000 of them are registered and undergo treatment. Read about their project ‘Care of Adolescents with mental health issues at home’ funded by BEARR.
SOS Children’s Villages Armenia delivered the project ‘Children with Mental Health Issues: A Challenge for Caregivers and Specialists’ in SOS children’s village Kotayk and SOS Children’s Village Idjevan Programme
Often children come to live at SOS villages at an early age and the emotional and behavioural problems do not become apparent till later. In recent years, the number of children suffering from mental health issues admitted to SOS villages has increased. Yet staff at both villages did not always feel equipped to support the children, and the BEARR Trust 2017 Small Grants Scheme became a wonderful opportunity to make a positive change.
Training on working with children with mental health needs was delivered to 23 SOS mothers. 17 members of staff (teachers, social workers and psychologists) benefited from training sessions on features of psychological trauma and mental health needs assessment.
As part of the project, psychologists also held one-on-one and group sessions with children, to develop their social and cognitive skills. 11 children were referred for further assessment.
As a result of the project, the general atmosphere in the SOS Children’s Villages of Kotayk and Idjevan has become more supportive and inclusive. The psychological state of 11 children with mental health needs has significantly improved.
The staff in the SOS villages are now equipped with both theoretical knowledge and practical tools to communicate effectively with children experiencing a mental health problem and support their emotional well-being. The BEARR Trust is delighted to be a part of this positive change.
In Kyrgyzstan a new project «Reboot» started on 1 August 2017. The project had two aims, short- and long-term. We are involved with increasing psychological literacy and concern about health among the gay population. The aim is to help to form in the future psychologically healthy individuals, able to look after their emotional well-being.
The need for such a project has existed in Kyrgyzstan’s gay community for a long time. In the post-Soviet space it is not customary to talk about one’s emotions and complexes with other people. This originates in the Soviet period, when anyone who mentioned their psychological condition was at risk of unwanted attention and even being shut up in a special institution. Any man who admitted to being a homosexual was sent to prison. As a result, psychological problems and social ills as a whole were kept within a small group. The gay community was one such group. In Kyrgyzstan gay people were a vulnerable group who experienced stigma and discrimination from society, and within their own community and as a result suffered psychologically and emotionally. Social surveys by NGOs, including by Gender-Vector, show that gay people are more likely than the heterosexual community to experience depression, alcoholism, suicide, and anti-social behaviour.
So in October 2017 we conducted a training course for key members of the gay community on “Maintaining and strengthening psychological health”. Thirty-four people took part. In December 2017 another training course was held, on “Psychological health and the dignity of the individual”, with 34 members of the gay community. A psychologist, a neuro-psychologist and a psychiatrist took part. Participants gained a clear understanding of the components of a person’s psychological health, and what to do and what not to do, to maintain one’s health.
Within the project it was decided to develop and print pamphlets on the following topics:
- Preventing emotional burn-out (designed for members of gay organisations);
- Your psychological health (for members of the gay community)
In order to establish the content of the pamphlets, two gay community focus groups were held in September 2017. Tests were devised to find out how at risk of emotional burn-out the focus group members were, especially people working in gay NGOs. It turned out that almost all NGO representatives were at risk of burn-out to some extent. The psychiatrist said that emotional burn-out syndrome is made worse by complications emerging in an individual during their professional work. Many gay people have complained to their doctors about health issues but no-one diagnosed this syndrome. They have now understood that it is the reaction of their organism to constant stress. Using the experience and advice of doctors, members of the community have developed methods of preventing this syndrome from occurring. They also plan to hold two more training courses and two more focus groups. At the end of the project, in January 2018, there will be a round table to present the results of the project, and to systematise the outcomes, analysis and discussion of the information received. They plan to invite members of the mass media, psychologists, psychotherapists, people with a friendly attitude and members of the gay community.
Institute for Democracy, Moldova
Moldova is the Europe’s poorest country. Low level of income results in many problems, including high levels of trafficking and domestic violence. The report of the International Organization for Migration states that Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova are the main sources of European trafficking of people. These three countries together with Romania and Bulgaria have supplied 225,000 “slaves” in Europe. And Moldova is one of the leaders in this process. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has mentioned an increase in violence against women and in trafficking and the lack of measures for victim protection in Moldova. The U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report on Moldova found that 40 percent of Moldovan women had experienced at least one violent act in their lifetime. Furthermore, 51.3% of women who had a sexual partner had been victims of psychological violence and 24.2% of women reported being victims of physical violence in their lifetime.
The Institute for Democracy’s project “Psychological Assistance to Victims of Trafficking and Domestic Violence” has done the following:
1) Consultations at its permanent Centre for Psychological Assistance to Victims of Trafficking and Domestic Violence at Tretiacova str., 21/3; Comrat, Republic of Moldova.
Our consultations are very popular. The reason is that our Center is the only one not only for Gagauzia, but for the entire south of Moldova. Our beneficiaries often tell us that we have helped them a great deal, and thank the BEARR Trust and us for the assistance.
The Centre has also provided addresses and phone numbers of organizations that provide assistance to victims of trafficking in Turkey, Italy, Russia, Spain, and other countries, including those representing their interests at the law enforcement authorities in those countries.The psychologist at the centre gives the victims psychological support; he visit the victims of trafficking and domestic violence at home in order to communicate with them in an atmosphere of trust, in a place a victim finds comfortable.
Services offered by the Centre for Psychological and Legal Assistance to trafficking and domestic violence victims include:
- primary psychological assistance to victims of trafficking and domestic violence;
- long-term psychological assistance to victims of trafficking and domestic violence;
- psychological assessment of personality and testing in order to identify options for providing psychological assistance to victims of trafficking and domestic violence;
- assistance (including confidential conversations) for restoring psychological and emotional state;
- improving relationships with family members and friends, and restoring trust in other people;
- support for developing self-determination and choice of occupation;
- rehabilitation assistance to the victim, etc. (depending on the psychological state of the victim).
The basic objective of the centre is convincing the victims not to withdraw but to talk to us about the problem they have been faced with. A part of this inner pain disappears during frank conversations, and the person starts feeling much easier.
Together, making a plan of actions needed to solve the major problems caused by the violence experienced. Discussing what the victim would do or say if the same thing happened to her (his) friend (acquaintance). Suggesting alternative solutions for each of the issues discussed. In parallel, self-control techniques are being taught, which allows the victim to cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. For this purpose, the following methods are used: relaxation (letting go of stress) and stress reduction (decreasing stress); physical exercise; sensitivity (vulnerability) reduction and cognitive rearrangement (changing perspectives).
Helping the victims understand their feelings and the ability to express them. The important point is dissociating (separating) negative feelings in time, i.e. the victim’s awareness of the fact that everything that happened is already in the past. Relieving the victims of their feeling of guilt. Supporting the victims’ intention to start a new way of life, take care of themselves, and set goals for the future. Upon realizing what happened to them, the victims learn to obtain what they were deprived of for many months. They have to decide what should be done next, and whether anything should be changed in their family situation.
Enhancing the victims’ emerging confidence of the fact that they control the situation, emphasizing that they take their decisions for themselves and will fulfill them the way they deem appropriate, and they will be responsible for what happens in their life from now on.
Hence, our Centre has demonstrated very good results of its work, showing that it is necessary as it is the only centre of its kind in Gagauzia. Unfortunately, in the south of Moldova, no qualitative and free psychological assistance is offered anywhere (at mayor’s offices, police stations, or social assistance institutions), and we are the only ones to provide it.
2) Phone hot-line for the victims of domestic violence and trafficking, where victims can be advised anonymously and for free.
3) Creating an Inter-Regional Network.
St. Petersburg Charitable Non-governmental Organization for Aid to Children and Youth “Ulitsa Mira”
The project benefited:
- 21 children, aged 8 to 16, who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, and their families
- 13 adolescents and youth aged 15 to 21, who have experienced trauma or crisis
The project was devised in cooperation with NGO “New Steps”, continued for 17 weeks from September 1st to December 30th and included two 2-hour group therapy sessions per week for children, one 4-hour group therapy session per week for adolescents and youth, and individual and family counselling for participating children and parents.
Children were selected for the program by a trained social worker based on the history of abuse and neglect, and in cooperation with child protection agencies in Petrogradskiy and Vasileostrovskiy districts in St. Petersburg, children’s orphanages and schools.
Children were then divided in two groups based on age (one group of children aged 8 to 12, another—children aged 12 to 16)
During group therapy sessions children received short-term trauma focused therapy, which provided safe and structured environment to share their experiences of abuse and neglect, get emotional support from other children and therapists, work through their feelings, discuss their current difficulties and fears, find resources to overcome the consequences of traumatic experience. Besides, children discussed the different types of abuse and violent behavior, how they can identify them and protect themselves, and ways to avoid abusive and violent interactions on their own part.
The work with teens and youth focused on the following issues: physical, psychological and sexual abuse, bullying, self-injurious behavior, emotional crisis, loss of loved ones, acute stress.
Every child had an opportunity to enter an individual therapy as well, to work through problems and experiences that he or she couldn’t bring up during group meetings and/or to get additional help and support. That was especially relevant and important for kids who have experienced sexual abuse, since it almost always involves feelings of guilt and shame, and it is often counter-productive to discuss this trauma in groups that include children who have not experienced sexual abuse.
When situation permitted, both children and their parents participated in individual and/or family counselling.
Out of 34 participating children and youth 7 have experienced both sexual and physical abuse, 20—physical and psychological abuse, 12—psychological abuse only, 21 have also experienced neglect, 4 had a history of attempted suicide, 11 had a history of self-injurious behavior, 12 had a history of a loss of a parent or family.
Children and youth were evaluated in the beginning and at the end of the program for emotional, behavioural and social difficulties and symptoms.
The final assessment yielded positive results of individual and group therapy for the participating children and youth: qualitative and quantitative decrease in abuse or trauma related emotional and behavioral problems, improved social and coping skills, improved self-esteem. Some participating families had noticeable improvements in parent-child interactions and family environment, most—a substantial decrease in abusive behavior. Most of the families received social support, which was needed to overcome crisis or to lay ground for a long-term intervention.
The work financed by the grant laid ground for a long-term intervention for children and families in crisis and in need of support. SPbBOO “Ulitsa Mira” have recently received a grant that allows to continue psychological counselling, group therapy and social work for participating children and families in need. There is an acute shortage of professional crisis intervention programs for abused children and families in crisis, and the experience gained through implementation of the project has a great value for the prospects of such work. The work with teens and adolescents confirmed the lack of support experienced by teens and youth in Russia and the magnitude of psychological and mental issues that they have. There are some state and non-governmental programs designed to support underage at-risk children, and there are few, if any that address the needs and emotional and mental issues of youth. The results of this project will be presented in a seminar for professionals in the field and, hopefully, will be disseminated further on and will encourage both state agencies and NGOs to work on those problems and deficits.
‘More dialogue, less stress’ NGO Arzanda, Khujand, Tajikistan, with their project: Preventing mental stress though awareness-raising and improving social dialogue and capacity building in six target villages of Panjakent district.
Nowadays, everyone is busy with their own obligations: parents are mostly busy at work and do not have enough time to talk to their children; children and young people are mostly involved with their phones and do not share daily activities with their parents. And social dialogue – understanding each other, being close to each other, having warm conversation – has been suffering in recent years, creating big gaps and separating us.
In implementing this project, Arzanda created strong social leaders called Promoters who played a major role, conducting awareness-raising activities with the communities of the six target villages in Panjakent district: Muguloni Bolo, Muguloni Poyon, Shingak, Ozodagon, Khujapanj, and Turkiroj.
After their training the Promoters were expected to teach others how to conduct awareness-raising activities, explain ways of preventing stress and mental health issues, try to create a warm and communicative atmosphere within the communities, to lower the stress level by developing communication skills, talking, drawing, drinking tea together, listening to music, creating an atmosphere of relaxation and peacefulness. Promoters played the key role in improving the social dialogues between households, communities, neighbours, schoolchildren and schoolteachers.
It is mostly vulnerable people who find themselves stressed. This can be for different reasons: their financial situation, unemployment, migration, family problems and many other issues. While talking with Promoters some beneficiaries want to cry, they enter into their problems so deeply that after the conversation they feel much better. Promoters do not discuss their problems in detail or tell anyone else but just have a warm conversation, explaining the causes of stress and associated mental health issues, trying to help the beneficiaries out of their stress situation.
So, the project chose six local village Promoters from among active villagers during community meeting in the course of voting and trained them in conducting awareness-raising activities and developing social dialogue in their communities. The Promoters are leaders in their own villages.
Community Promoters mostly organised group conversations and face to face chats. They worked with marginalised populations, with lonely women, with migrants, with parents and problematic young people, mostly vulnerable populations in poor economic circumstances, and tried to lower their stress levels and mental health issues by means of open sessions, communication and improving the process of dialogue and face to face talk. During this short period the Promoters tried to break down stereotypes, reduce stress issues and improve social dialogue among households.Most conversations have been conducted with the different layers of the communities, especially with young people who had failed their exams and other disaffected young people, with lonely women who were divorced or whose husband had died or left them or migrated, with deported migrants, with detainees (in prison), and with vulnerable people in a difficult financial situation. Altogether 493 people have benefitted from these activities, group conversations and face to face meetings.
In December 2017, the local Panjakent newspaper Zarafshon published information about the project, its funders, the contact details of Promoters, the activities and support that Promoters have been able to provide. The main purpose of the publication was to introduce and inform other neighbouring villages with local leaders. Nowadays, it is difficult to find specialists who can provide advice and conduct relevant activities in the field of stress reduction. With the support of the BEARR Trust grant, Arzanda was able to enhance the knowledge of local activists and create strong leaders who can continue their work even after the end of project.