Physical and mental health are two sides of the same coin, each affecting the other. Years of conflict and instability in the region have resulted in high instance of emotional trauma, especially amongst children. Many Syrian and Palestinian refugee children have experienced the violence of armed conflict first hand, whether here in Lebanon or in Syria. Lebanon also has tens of thousands of orphan children who have experienced the trauma of losing one or both parents. Parents and caretakers, often preoccupied with the struggle to survive and possibly dealing with trauma themselves, are very often unable to give children the positive support they need to overcome their emotional burdens and deal with the everyday challenges they face. Added to these issues is the fact that there is an enormous gap in mental health services in the country as a whole, rendering it difficult for children and families to get the help they need. All of these factors combine to increase psychosocial distress and negative coping mechanisms amongst both parents and children, contributing to a host of factors ranging from broken families to lack of academic success.
Why child protection and mental health?
In order for a family to survive as a functional unit, they do not only require finances and material commodities, but are also in need of emotional stability. By providing children with safe spaces to play and learn, while also giving them the guidance and emotional support they need to develop positive coping skills, we contribute to the social inclusion of marginalized groups in society, especially refugees, ultimately helping them overcome past challenges and look forward to the future.
Child protection and mental health programs at ISWA
In the face of widespread trauma and the general lack of mental health services, ISWA aims to strengthen family and community support networks while also providing individual and group mental health services to children and families.
- Psychosocial services – Safe Spaces
Through this program, vulnerable Syrian, Palestinian, and Lebanese children are engaged in group PSS activities, with the goals of creating an outlet for them to express themselves, improving coping skills and identifying severe cases of trauma, as well as preventing the instance of more severe mental and behavioral disorders. Activators empower children to overcome the challenges they face through the targeted use of art therapy, drama therapy, a variety of kinesthetic activities and, for older children, writing activities and peer-to-peer discussion. Mothers and other female caregivers also receive group services, giving them the support they need, and enabling them to better support their children in turn.
- Social support and counseling for orphans and their families
As part of its orphan program, ISWA involves these vulnerable children in a variety of extra-curricular activities, including field trips, volunteering, summer camps, community iftars, and Eid parties, with the aims of broadening their life experience, enhancing social cohesion and a sense of belonging, and encouraging civic responsibility and participation. In addition, more intensive counseling and mentorship are available to those orphans and their families who have been identified to be experiencing more severe emotional or social difficulties.
A few highlights in the Child Protection and Mental Health Sectors
- Enhancing psychological well-being and encouraging positive coping strategies among 320 Syrian, Palestinian, and Lebanese children and 130 caregivers in Saida through psychosocial support activities.
- Sponsoring 4,109 orphans each month throughout Lebanon, including extra-curricular activities and social support