The physical and mental well-being of Afghan children are under grave threat in a country where mental health service provision has been extremely limited even in the best of times. Now, with the new Taliban regime in place and the collapse of national health services and severe reduction in development and humanitarian support for Afghanistan, the need for mental health support is acute [i] as the country teeters on the edge of economic collapse[ii]. Children are at heightened risk of severe mental health impacts during this crisis.

GRID, Norwegian Afghanistan Committee and the Center for Human Rights, Gender and Migration (CHRGM) at Washington University in St. Louis are helping mitigate the current mental health crisis in Afghanistan by strengthening the psycho-social support elements of their existing, co-developed educational interventions. The Child Resilience in Afghanistan Study will work with 1,200 students from low-income, rural backgrounds, 40% of whom are girls and 30% from minority ethnic groups. The program  involves:

  1. Training teachers using inclusive education methods and project-based learning activities to promote core life skills[iii].
  2. Implementing a culturally-relevant toolkit for psycho-social support for children in emergency situations[iv].
  3. Training parents in child psycho-social support [v] and the importance of education.
  4. Engaging children, parents, teachers, and school management committees in participatory workshops to identify factors influencing children’s happiness and in evaluating the impact of the psycho-social training received on child happiness and mental well-being.

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[i] Trani, J.-F., E. Ballard, P. Bakhshi and P. Hovmand (2016). “Community based system dynamic as an approach for understanding and acting on messy problems: a case study for global mental health intervention in Afghanistan.” Conflict and health 10(1): 25.

[ii] Goldbaum, C. (2021). “Facing Economic Collapse, Afghanistan is Gripped by Starvation”. New York Times: Dec. 4th 2021.

[iii] Core life skills are decision making; problem solving; creative thinking; critical thinking; effective communication; interpersonal relationship skills; self-awareness; empathy; coping with emotions; and coping with stress. See UNESCO 2015. Education for All 2000–2015: Achievements and Challenges. Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges. Paris, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: 516.

[iv] The toolkit was developed for teachers by the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiatives (REPSSI) based in South Africa and the International Federation of the Red Cross-Red Crescent (IFRC) Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support in 2021. A hopeful, healthy, and happy living and learning toolkit. Guide for teachers. Copenhagen. 80p.

[v] The toolkit was developed for parents by the REPSSI and the IFRC: A Hopeful, Healthy, and Happy Living and Learning Toolkit. Parent-Caregiver Guide. 2021, IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support: Copenhagen. 45p.