Five things we learned doing a series of community-led mental health projects around the world – Positive News

Guatemalan parents have an enviable childcare situation and the creators have the best job in the world behind the scenes in our Developing Mental Wealth series.

We were halfway through our series looking at people and projects that are truly changing lives by improving the mental health of people around the world. From Yemen to Liberia to Guatemala, what have we learned so far? Daisy Greenwell, the editor of the series, tells about it.

1. Stringers have one of the best jobs in the world

You may not have heard of the term stringer, but you have read their work. Stringers are freelance journalists who report on the ground in all kinds of countries for news organizations named for the string that once measured their column inches (and determined their pay). So far in this series, we’ve commissioned journalists in six countries and sent them into the heart of some of the most impactful mental health projects around the world. I have often wished I could be there rather than sitting at my desk in England talking face to face with visionary founders and the people whose lives they are changing. There aren’t many jobs that give you the opportunity to get up close and ask as many questions as you want to people who are really making a difference.

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2. Reporting in the Global South is much more complex than in the UK

Behind every article we publish is a lot of sweat, thought and logistical poker from a bunch of people, from editor to editor, photographer and interviewees. Making sure everyone is in the same place at the same time can be a logistical challenge. Even more so, it becomes apparent when it takes place in a country 5,000 miles away, both geographically and culturally.

For our article published earlier this month Indigenous Women’s Circles that empower Guatemalan women after decades of marginalization, we commissioned Guatemalan journalist Sandra Cuffe to visit the project. He was immediately confronted with an unusual physical obstacle to the execution of his commission.

Cuffe explains: Indigenous leaders led months of pro-democracy protests, including weeks of highway blockades, in response to prosecutors’ efforts to sway the election results. Reporting in a country like Guatemala can be tricky because between political crises and the poor state of the country’s highway infrastructure, there’s no guarantee that travel will be possible.

We encountered a different but equally difficult problem in Yemen when trying to photograph members The best team, a free sports group that has spread across the country helping people stay fit and healthy during the ongoing civil war. On the eve of photographers visit al-Thawra Park in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where one of the groups gathers before dawn. prayers, the government announced that it would ban groups of people from gathering outside. His photography was wasted for the foreseeable future.

In either case, we had no choice but to be flexible, adjust our plans and carry on regardless. Note to yourself an article that takes a few weeks to materialize in the UK may take twice as long as working in these countries.

Yemeni men train together in the capital’s Sanaas al-Thawra Park as part of the Swedish free fitness club “Best Team”, which has swept across the country. Photo: Reuters

3. The childcare situation of Guatemalan parents is enviable

When photographer James Rodrigues files his images Indigenous Women’s Circles In the project in Guatemala, we were interested to observe many women carrying children on their backs that were not their own. It appears that parenthood in Guatemala differs from the UK, and is more evenly distributed across the community. It coincided with a new Cambridge University study on the indigenous Mbendjele BaYaka in the Republic of Congo that had caught my attention. The researchers found that in this community, more than half of the baby’s cries belong to the mother’s support network instead of her. Would a British mother who is home alone all day with her baby agree with the study’s authors, who concluded that the conditions in which humans evolved to care for babies do not correspond to the situation many parents find themselves in today? A straw poll of my friends would suggest 100% yes.

Elsa Cortez, 26, weaves a belt while carrying her 1-year-old niece in Guatemala. Local women’s circles led by indigenous women have changed her life. Photo: James Rodriguez

4. The Nordic countries are once again pioneers

What does the Nordic countries have and their ability to rise practically in all points of human development, from public health care to education and happiness? Those who have experienced psychosis, one of the most feared symptoms of mental illness, also feel better in Finland. Only 15 percent of people diagnosed with schizophrenia work in Great Britain. In Finland, 86% of those suffering from severe mental health problems return to work and education. How? Back in the 1980s, when Finland had one of the highest rates of psychosis in Europe, psychiatrists developed a treatment model that changed the treatment outcomes of those in crisis. Now the UK is trialling it with a five-year trial of an open dialogue approach in NHS mental health clinics in Dorset, Kent and London. The results are due in April 2024 and psychiatrists we spoke to believe they could revolutionize mental health care in the UK and beyond.

psychosis in Finnish

Dr. Russell Razzaque, an East London psychiatrist who has been instrumental in bringing the Finnish approach to psychosis, “open dialogue” to Great Britain. Photo: Sam Bush

5. Many of the most exciting grassroots mental health projects are underway in Africa

We scour the planet for great community-led mental health projects, and time and time again they seem to take root in Africa. from Friendship benches from Zimbabwe to a project that provides CBT and cash transfers to ex child soldiers in Liberiaand a Kenyan non-governmental organization that aims to through intergenerational healingAfrica is often a pioneer in thinking about mental health.

Although we want to ensure a good geographical spread of the series, my main priority as an editor has to be the stories themselves. Stories that show the most creative, interesting and potentially scalable ways communities are finding to ease the mental health stresses in their lives. The number of African stories truly reflects the most exciting developments in the world of mental health. If you have a project to suggest, please email me. I would like to hear about you.

Main photo: FGM survivors at a trauma-informed survivor leadership course held by Girl Generation in Kenya: Zeitun Abass Omar, Ralia Roba and Dekha Ahmed. Credit: Khadija Farah

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