Mental health challenges are complex and often develop in early childhood. Without supporting relationships and the feeling of security, children can lack the foundation they need to grow into their strongest selves. Experiences of violence, abuse and neglect can have a major impact on a child’s development and lifelong well-being.

When families face difficulties, the mental health of both children and caregivers suffers. Mental health issues, exacerbated by external pressures, are a common contributing factor to child-family separation.  

To make sure families can stay together and thrive for generations, it is paramount to strengthen them through crises and champion the mental health of children, young people and parents. 

In our alternative care services, we strive for every child and young person to have the supportive relationships and the feeling of security they need to overcome difficulties and build resilience. We aim to equip care professionals with the tools and knowledge required to understand trauma and address the needs of children and young people.

Mental health: A right for all children

Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. Children’s right to health is guaranteed by international law. We act and advocate for scaling up the protection of the mental health of children, especially those who are growing up alone or in families facing hardship. In the context of humanitarian crises, when children and families are faced with trauma and often lack access to mental health services, we make mental health support a priority.  

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) initiatives 

In 2020, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal implemented a three-phase ICDP 'positive parenting' training for counsellors, conducted in collaboration with external experts. Twenty counsellors from SOS Children’s Villages Nepal and fourteen from the family strengthening programme underwent the training. Following its completion, all thirty-four counsellors were equipped to pass on positive parenting skills to existing mothers/aunts. Counsellors from the family strengthening programme extended this training to the target community, comprising programme participants of SOS Children’s Villages Nepal.

In 2023, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal expanded the ICDP "positive parenting" training to two representative teachers from each of the seven SOS Herman Gmeiner Schools. These teachers are currently disseminating the training to guardians within the community, alongside their fellow teachers. This initiative aims to foster positive parenting skills and enhance parent-child and teacher-student relationships.

The overall impact of the positive parenting training has been substantial, transforming the relationship between caregivers and children in SOS Children’s Villages Nepal. The initiative has cultivated a more nurturing and supportive environment, where children experience love, attentive listening, and empowerment to realise their full potential.

In 2021, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal introduced expressive art training focused on "emotional wellness." This training was attended by forty counsellors from both Children's Villages and Small Group Homes, and what makes it particularly special is its inclusivity, welcoming both children and adults as participants. The sessions incorporate a variety of techniques, including art, journaling, sharing, guided imaginary, group activities, body movement, relaxation, and breathing exercises.

Expressive art sessions serve as a safe and creative space for individuals to explore and articulate their emotions. Participants can choose from various mediums like painting, drawing, or sculpture to visually convey their feelings.

Journaling enables individuals to document and contemplate their emotions, thoughts, and experiences.

Guided imaginary exercises take participants on a structured mental journey, allowing them to explore and visualize their emotions in a controlled manner.

Group activities promote interpersonal connections, fostering a supportive environment for shared experiences.

Sharing sessions provide a platform for individuals to openly discuss their emotions, promoting understanding and empathy among participants.

Body movement exercises encourage the use of physical movement to express and release emotions, contributing to relaxation and heightened self-awareness.

Finally, relaxation and breathing techniques are taught to manage and reduce stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. These techniques focus on deep breathing, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises to cultivate a calm state of mind and enhance emotional wellbeing.

Overall, the expressive art "emotional wellness" sessions provided by SOS Children's Villages Nepal aim to nurture emotional wellbeing in individuals of all ages through diverse creative and therapeutic approaches.

In 2022, SOS Children's Villages Nepal introduced peer counselling with the goal of empowering children and young people to acquire essential counselling skills and address peer-related issues. In each location, two representative children from SOS Children's Villages and two representative young people from Youth Care participated in a comprehensive five-day training programme.

Throughout the training, participants honed various skills such as effective communication, active listening, maintaining confidentiality, building trust, establishing rapport, and problem-solving—skills essential for providing peer counseling and resolving conflicts among their peers.Presently, the trained representatives from both SOS Children's Villages and Youth Care are actively implementing this training in their respective locations. They have established peer support groups, each comprising a minimum of eight members, which play a crucial role in addressing everyday minor issues among peers.

Moreover, these peer counselors are adept at referring severe cases to professional counselors available in their location. By disseminating the training, these peer counselors actively contribute to supporting and empowering their peers, fostering a supportive and nurturing environment within their communities.

SOS Children’s Villages Nepal took proactive steps during the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing Psychological First Aid (PFA) to the existing 40 counsellors through online courses. Recognising the profound impact and importance of the training, a more formalized program was introduced in 2022, facilitated by an external expert. Presently, counselors from both Children’s Villages and Youth Care are applying PFA intervention techniques to support caregivers, children, and young people.

This training has proven highly beneficial for both counsellors and the individuals they assist. Counsellors have gained invaluable skills to offer psychological support and effectively manage the emotional repercussions of COVID-19 on children and young people. Armed with PFA intervention techniques, counselors can assess emotional needs, provide immediate support, and connect individuals with appropriate resources and services. They have also mastered the art of communication during crises, ensuring the emotional well-being of children and young people and aiding them in coping with the challenges they face.

The implementation of PFA has significantly elevated the quality of care within Children's Villages and Youth Care programmes. Caregivers, children, and young people now benefit from a more holistic and comprehensive support system that addresses not only their physical needs but also their emotional well-being. The impact of PFA on those we serve has been profound—they are better equipped to manage stress, anxiety, and other emotional challenges brought about by the pandemic, resulting in improved overall mental health and resilience.

The organisation firmly believes in the importance of investing in psychological support and intervention techniques, particularly during times of crisis. PFA not only helps individuals cope with immediate challenges but also builds long-term resilience. The commitment to continuing the implementation of PFA underscores the organisation's dedication to prioritising the well-being of children, young people, and caregivers.

In 2023, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal took a forward-thinking approach by introducing career counselling training. The primary goal is to enhance the skills of 20 counselors from youth care, enabling them to effectively support young people in making well-informed academic and career choices. The 5-day Training of Trainers (TOT) programme, scheduled for June 2023, is designed to equip counselors with the essential tools and techniques to assess the interests, personality, and preferences of young individuals. These insights will then be aligned with the available academic courses and job opportunities in Nepal.

Commencing on August 23rd, 2023, the 20 counsellors from SOS Children’s Villages Nepal will undergo this training, positioning them to offer career counseling services to children in the village starting from grade 8. The initiative's overarching objective is to empower young people with the necessary guidance and support, facilitating informed decisions about their academic and professional paths. This forward-looking initiative reflects the organisation's commitment to nurturing and guiding the next generation toward fulfilling and purposeful futures.

Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal has been annually conducting self-care sessions for mothers and aunts. These sessions, facilitated by external experts alongside existing counsellors, are tailored to prioritise the well-being of caregivers. The overarching goal is to cultivate a healthy and fulfilling life for caregivers, directly impacting the happiness and contentment of the children under their care.

During these sessions, the external expert and counsellors cover a range of topics related to wellness. Guidance on stress management, self-care practices, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and building positive relationships is provided. The interactive nature of the sessions encourages open discussions, allowing mothers and aunts to share experiences and address challenges. Effective communication skills and strategies for coping with the responsibilities of caregiving are also imparted.

These self-care sessions are pivotal in ensuring the overall well-being of caregivers, who play a crucial role in the development and upbringing of children in SOS Children's Villages, Nepal. By prioritising their mental health and self-care, caregivers are better equipped to create a nurturing and supportive environment for the children.

Furthermore, the sessions underscore the importance of self-reflection and personal growth. Caregivers are encouraged to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, learning techniques to enhance their well-being and resilience. SOS Children's Villages, Nepal recognises the direct impact of caregivers' well-being on the lives of the children they care for. By investing in their self-care, the organization aims to create a positive and conducive environment for the holistic development of the children.

In essence, the self-care sessions provided by SOS Children's Villages, Nepal are a fundamental aspect of their commitment to supporting the well-being of both caregivers and the children in their care. Through these sessions, the organization strives to empower and equip mothers and aunts with the necessary tools and knowledge to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.


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