‘I Support My Friends’, launched today, provides children and teens with the skills and knowledge they need to support their friends through distressing events. Based on the principles of Psychological First Aid (PFA), the training has been piloted in Japan, Jordan, Mongolia and Turkey, with encouraging results.
“When I first heard about the PFA, I thought it was something only professionals could do and it would be difficult. However, I enjoyed learning to listen to my friends, ask ‘help if I thought it was right to do so and help reduce my friends’ worries,’ said a 15-year-old girl attending a training session in Japan.
The design and piloting of the program is a collaboration between WHO, UNICEF, Save the Children and the MHPSS Collaborative.
“Children and adolescents are often the first to see how their friends are affected by distressing events, whether at home or at school or during a large-scale emergency such as a natural disaster or conflict situation,” said Dr Ali Schafer of the WHO. leader for the project. “Giving children the right skills to support each other can have huge benefits in terms of their ability to cope and move forward in difficult circumstances.”
The resource kit, intended for adults who plan to facilitate the training, is aimed at 9-17 year olds. It comprises four parts: a theoretical and implementation guide; a training manual for a 3-day course for children; a children’s workbook; and a facilitator training manual. Sections on training preparation, monitoring and evaluation as well as gender and inclusiveness considerations are also included. The materials are particularly focused on empowering children to also work with responsible adults and encouraging a supportive peer-to-peer approach as part of wider efforts to secure the basic needs and rights of children, adolescents and their families.
Although ‘I Support My Friends’ has been tested in protracted humanitarian and development contexts, it has yet to be used in the most acute phase of an emergency. Today’s launch will pave the way for its use in such situations.
Training can be provided either directly by an organization with the required expertise, or in partnership with another entity, such as a school, government or community organization. Collaboration with local partner institutions or community networks is key to achieving broad reach and lasting impact. Training can also be incorporated into existing programs such as those for child protection, health promotion, education, life skills training, peacebuilding initiatives and disaster preparedness. .