Supporting Child Refugees During Mental Health Week

International children’s charity World Vision UK is highlighting the trauma faced by refugees during Mental Health Week (9-15 May).

And the development agency is highlighting the work it does to provide emotional and psychological support to children and families across the world who have been forced to flee their homes because their communities have been devastated by war.  

These are children like Milo, 15, who left Iraq after his mother was killed by a suicide bomber. Milo has accessed one of World Vision’s child-friendly spaces, where children can play, learn, access emotional support, reconnect with their family and learn about their rights and how to protect themselves.  “Here we can hang out with our peers and at the same time, we can study. I enjoy practical things here such as taking care of our little garden,” says Milo.  

Similarly, World Vision provides art therapy through practitioners like Jwan, who worked in one of our women and children spaces in Iraq. “My personal goal for this programme is to bring a smile back to the displaced children’s faces. Even the simplest of creative activities can provide a venue for children to start their healing process, says Jwan. 

“What is important is we help them make it happen. We guide them so they feel that we are there, and they are not alone.” 

World Vision Georgia is currently facilitating music and dance therapy sessions with children from Ukraine. The therapy aims to reduce stress and enable children to express their feelings and emotions through music and dance. The sessions are fully adaptable, making them accessible to all ages and skills. 

Mark Sheard, CEO of World Vision UK, says: “We know that going for a walk, reaching out to friends, and eating a healthy diet are ways of protecting our mental health. For many of those World Vision works with whose homes and communities have been destroyed, a walk could be both dangerous and a distressing reminder of what they have lost. Similarly, if they have had to flee their homes a healthy, balanced diet will be difficult. They may have had to grab whatever was in their cupboard and run.”

Unfortunately, this is the case for many displaced children who have become victims of war across the world. According to the World Health Organisation, as many as one in five people living in a conflict have a mental health disorder. An international review by the Red Cross revealed that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is among the most common mental health disorder among children exposed to conflict along with other issues including ADHD, panic disorder, anxiety, and sleep disorders. 

Mark continued: “There is help available through World Vision’s Childhood Rescue programmes. We rely on donations to help bring hope and comfort to children and families who have had to flee with very little. We hope that this Mental Health Week people will support our work with refugees, especially those who have fled the conflict in Ukraine.”

Written by:  Jo Duckles

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