Approaches to providing psycho-social support for children, teachers and other school staff, and social and emotional learning for children in protracted conflict situations

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Helpdesk Query:

What has worked/hasn’t worked in helping children and young people (boys and girls) to protect and promote their well-being and that of others by, for example, identifying risks and responses to stress, and how their impact can be managed or mitigated? (Well-being is understood to include physical safety, mental resilience, ability to maintain social relations, and a continuing capacity to learn).

What are considered to be the core, essential components of psycho-social support and social and emotional learning? What distinctions should be made between activities that can be carried out in schools, during school hours and by regular teachers and activities that should be undertaken out of school, or after school in recreational or child-friendly spaces or school clubs, and/or conducted by trained specialists?

Summary:

Whilst the provision of psycho-social activities is regularly mentioned in documents referring to the humanitarian response to education, there is a dearth of literature that refers to exactly what these programmes consist of, and how effective they are. There is, however, widespread recognition of the importance of providing psycho-social interventions to counter the impact of traumatisation on children and youth’s well-being and mental health, which can manifest in depression, shame, withdrawal or aggression.

A psychosocial approach moves away from focusing on individual clinically based diagnoses to focusing on holistic, broad-based preventative programmes that promote resilience and develop coping strategies across the entire affected group. This leads to improvements in general stress related symptoms among those with and without specific disorders, and can thereby significantly reduce the numbers of those that do require any specialist intervention. It is therefore important that psycho-social programmes are implemented through a complementary, integrated and multisectoral approach.

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