Can you tell us about you, your background and your position in AMI?
I am a 34 years old Thai psychologist. I'm working since 1 year and a half with AMI as a psychologist supervisor.
I am mainly responsible of psycho care givers trainings, in order to improve their abilities and skills regarding psychosocial activities. I'm also managing some patients, mostly the ones having severe symptoms.
Can you explain who the psycho care givers are?
The PCG are living in the refugee camp. There are from the same community than the people they work with. They escaped from Myanmar but are from different ethnic group (Karen, Kachin, Chan, Burmese...)
What kind of training do you offer them?
I have a background of philosophy, humanitarian and counseling psychology. This background is helping me to provide complete training to the psycho care givers. They are trained to improve their positive psychological attitude and their aptitude in counseling so they can help efficiency the people who need psychosocial support.
Last week was the mental health week that you organized in the 3 camps in which AMI is working. It was the first time such an event was organized. Can you tell us how the idea of organizing the mental health week came?
The idea of the mental health week came through discussions between AMI staff (Coralie, the previous psychologist officer, psycho care givers and me). We wanted to present mental health activities to the community and to increase awareness about mental health issues. We also wanted to improve positive life skills to the community through sharing and communicating with them.
How did you manage to organize this special week?
We decided half a year ago to organize this week. All mental health staff was involved to make it as effective and attractive as possible. We first had group discussions with the PCG to decide what we should expect and how to make it. We designed bags, t-shirts, badges, pens and stickers with our logo.
We then managed all the logistic issues, like location of the event in the camps, creation and purchase of material, making of big banners, presentation boards and information leaflets... the logistic aspect was quite important due to the fact that this event was happening in 3 different camps at the same time, which are located 1, 2 and 4 hours from Maesot (base).
The concrete preparation started one month before the mental health week, involving all mental health staff as well as logistic and administrative teams.
Can you describe some of the activities that happened during that week?
We had different activities to respond the different expectations from the participants: yoga sessions every day, listening and drawing group, children time, chatting rooms (individual counseling). We used psychological questionnaire to evaluate participant's well-being (happiness scale which shows the ability to understand the positive and negative aspects of life and to handle them peacefully, gratitude scale which evaluates the ability to love and respect one-self and others, satisfaction scale, which shows the ability to enjoy present moment in their life).
Who were the participants who attended these activities? Most of people who came to attend the activities are the refugees living in these 3 camps. Many of AMI staff attended some of the activities (medics, nurses, VCT counselors, home visitors...). Other organizations involve in the camps were also invited and many of them came. Some members of local organizations also participated, .as well as camp authorities (camp committee, camp leader...) and some representatives of the Thai authorities (camp officer).
What were participants' feedbacks?
They were attracted by our activities, mainly the questionnaire and yoga. Children were very receptive and enjoyed drawing and yoga activities.
We also had good participation for all listening group sessions. In general, we had very good feedbacks from the participant and information related to our activities was spread by attendants. One other positive point is that we reinforced the understanding of our activities, the trustfulness in our program and the links with other organizations working in the camps.
Would you like to organize again such an event in the future?
Yes of course! The responses from attendants and participants were very positive, and it has a great impact on our activities. We also realized that most of people would like to get more support to handle some of the difficulties they face in their daily life. I would also like to add that suffering is not only belonging to the patients coming to our hospital: everybody body can face difficulties in their life.
And everybody can improve his awareness and his psychological aptitude to enhance his personal, familial and social life. Psycho care givers can support and provide care to any body that requires, not only hospital patients.
By Cecilie Alessandri, Health Project Officer