Mental Health Awareness Week – War Child: Shaima Al-Obaidi, Press Officer
To mark Mental Health Awareness Week 14-20th May, we are running a series of blogs focusing on the role of music in mental health from some of the initiatives we work closely with including the BRIT School, Nordoff Robbins, Music Support, Key4Life, Help Musicians & more.
Today we are featuring a blog from War Child’s Press Officer, Shaima Al-Obaidi.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to shine a light on the vital work of War Child UK, the charity for children affected by conflict, and the crucial impact of psychosocial support in helping some of the world’s most vulnerable children in their journey to recovery. With over 250 million children now living in conflict-affected areas, the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for many children and young people.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TOLL OF CONFLICT CAN LEAVE CHILDREN TRAUMATISED
Conflicts in places like Iraq and Syria continue to bring new waves of violence, displacement and disruption to people’s lives, leaving children especially vulnerable and at risk of exploitation, abuse and neglect. Children are not only coming under attack, they are separated from their parents against their will and denied access to basic services such as their right to education. Unless addressed immediately, the psychological toll of conflict can leave children traumatised and threaten their long term future on a catastrophic scale.
EMAN’S STORY, SYRIA
“When the conflict started I was doing my undergraduate degree. It affected me every day as I was trying to live my normal life in Aleppo.
“There was harassment in the street, and if you were mistaken for a protester they would take you, arrest you by mistake.
“I left Syria three years ago, but I still have all these feelings and I still get flashbacks. I don’t think I can cut out that period of my life.
“I have seen a change in my sister who was studying for her degree in Syria. Before, she used to be energetic, very optimistic. She was cheerful and had a lot of hobbies, but when I saw her last time I was shocked.
“Although she managed to finish her degree, she doesn’t have any hope. She locked herself in her room, crying and crying… I don’t know if it’s called depression, but locking yourself in your room for a whole week, not wanting to eat or be around anyone. That has really struck me …
“Most of the doctors and psychologists have left the country, there’s only a few left. Those few cannot get so many people to come to them.
“All these organisations in Syria are only supporting shelter, maybe education, but they are not looking into people’s emotional wellbeing.”
HOW WAR CHILD HELPS
War Child UK works across a spectrum of conflicts supporting children and young people like Eman in emergencies and providing longer-term support to children and their communities affected by decades-long conflicts. The focus of War Child’s interventions are protection, education and livelihoods. Programmes are adapted to responding to the particular needs of children in different conflicts and psychosocial support is one element of this work.
The programmes they deliver, such as the ‘Time to be a Child’ programme, can help children to overcome this trauma, teaching them positive coping mechanisms and life-skills as well as providing one-to-one care for those who have experienced extreme violence.
Through continued and tailored support, children can begin to rebuild their lives and take ownership over their futures.
War Child UK, together with its partners, work in 15 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and Latin America providing protection, education and standing up for the rights of children caught up in conflict. To find out more or to donate, visit www.warchild.org.uk