In Brussels, many migrant women without legal status have no or limited access to health care and other basic services. Their access to descent care is mainly hampered by a lack of information, limited financial resources and poor experiences in the past.
In 2019, three organizations (Médecins du Monde, Culture 4 Change (C4C) and Theatre & Reconciliation) joint efforts to help migrant women without legal status to reduce levels of stress, hopelessness and lack of energy and to come out of their isolation. One of the major challenges of the project was to mobilize migrant women to participate in this specific project; a theatre production that aims to reinforce the social cohesion of people with a different culture, background and age.
Action research conducted by C4C during the implementation process was conducted in order to know which elements contributed to increased feelings of trust and reinforced autonomy among the target group and more willingness to support migrants among a larger population. We could clearly see how the mood of the participants in this project that lasted till June 2019 and that resulted in a final theatre show, entitled Liaisons Joyeuses, was influenced by playing together which allowed the reestablishment of social relations and a revitalization through the expression of feelings and the creation of a (dramatic) tension on the set using different modalities and resources. Expressing emotions in a secure context, being able to relate to the here and now, moving the body, using voice, music, form and rhythm, were all elements that permitted our target group to regain confidence, self-esteem and autonomy and to restore relations, all elements that have a positive influence on the mental health of people and that can be obtained by relative simple techniques without the interference of medical or therapeutic specialists. We were also surprised by the large number of people that came to see our target group and expressed their willingness to be actively involved in efforts to support our target group in daily life.
Our major conclusion is that mental health can indeed be improved by social action, based upon a better understanding of what a given situation really means for a target group and their immediate social environment. We believe this finding may help in formulating answers to problems that are often unnecessarily medicalized.
Nearly 2.5 billion smallholders cultivate the world's arable land, strategically positioned to tackle multiple Anthropocene challenges. When consciously adopting ecologically-based pest management practices, they can improve resource use efficiency, slow biodiversity loss, curtail environmental pollution and safeguard human health (see Wyckhuys et. al, Ecological illiteracy can deepen farmers' pesticide dependency).
In Cambodia we try to help changing the culture of applying pesticides. The Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine does research in relations between exposure to pesticide and illness. The next step is to understand the the farmers’ willingness and ability to take up new information, endorse environmental activities, and use these changes in culture to increase positive behavioural change. On the picture is my good friend Channeang who is always the best guide one can find!
Samenleving & Politiek, Jaargang 26, 2019, nr. 10 (december), pagina 49 tot 53
Globale solidariteit hoeft niet per se in tegenspraak te zijn met de bestaande systemen van sociale bescherming uitgebouwd op het niveau van de natiestaat. Beiden kunnen, en moeten, elkaar aanvullen.
In the Lancet, Rochelle Ann Burgess et al formulate a call to action to promote social interventions in global mental health. This fits the agenda of Culture4change like a glove. With the authority of the Lancet, it is now recognised that there is an " urgent need to develop more comprehensive psychosocial prevention, promotion, and treatment interventions capable of addressing the everyday impacts of social, economic, and political forces on individuals’ mental health, through expansion of the “social” aspect of our global mental health efforts". Hurray! This is what we are trying to do. Time for us to write up - a challenge in itself when the actual work to make a change in real life is already taking up so much time...
Great initiative of Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag, to organize a conference with the motto “mind the mind now” on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Crisis Situations. In Amsterdam on 7 & 8 October 2019, Minister Kaag aims to bring home the message that “Mental Health and Psychosocial Support is a necessity in any humanitarian response”. In a tweet on 25 September she states that “Psychosocial support needs to become a standard component of humanitarian aid”. At C4C we applaud Minister Kaag for this initiative…
...even though psychosocial care is of course not a new thing, as the humdrum around the minister’s initiative seems to claim. It has been around for more than 30 years, started to be recognized in the early 1990s, was included in the ‘cluster approach’ of the humanitarian response introduced in 2005, and guidelines on “Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings” were accepted widely as from 2007.
But in all that time, not much has really improved in how to provide effective psychosocial care.
Images of children playing games or women talking in groups are still dominant when it comes to picturing psychosocial care. However, a recent systematic review of focused psychosocial interventions found, once again, that these type of interventions may be moderately effective in reducing PTSD symptoms and functional impairment in children, but are mostly helpful in increasing hope, coping, and social support. That is an echo of an important study from 2007, which stated that community efficacy, social connectedness, and hope are the most important elements of psychosocial programming.
In other words, what is effective in psychosocial care points at an approach that puts the mobilization of communities' beliefs and hopes central. The irony is that this does not require mental health professionals! But rather another species, often lacking in the relief world – a kind of social workers who know how to apply existing, often cultural values and resources in order to rebuild and stimulate community efficacy. We try to do this at C4C, and we look forward to find more initiatives like this at the conference. We will keep you posted!