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Supporting women’s mental health in the PNG Highlands

Папуа-Новая Гвинея
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Tribal fighting in areas of South Koroba, Hela Province and Enga Province impacts all people in the communities, particularly those who are more vulnerable.  

Women, with distinct mental and physical health needs, are significantly impacted during, and after, tribal fights. This year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is providing support to women in these areas who are under stress due to violence through the Community Group Support facilitators. Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Officer, Rebecca Piam, gives an insight into the program.

Based at the ICRC office in Mt Hagen, Rebecca has been working with the joint MHPSS and Health program for over two years, and has watched it grow from strength to strength, emphasizing that, "Whilst some people in the community are resilient, others may not be able to cope and function well daily. It is those who may be experiencing difficulties trying to cope with issues of life that require support."  

She adds, "Too often, they may not be aware that, by not identifying and addressing these issues, it can have a long-term negative impact on their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing."

To date, the program has facilitated over 10 cycles of support group sessions for the benefit of more than 340 participants and trained a total of 33 facilitators in support groups techniques as well as in the content of the support group sessions.

The support group sessions respond to the victims/survivors of violence at a community level – with seven sessions in one cycle, the facilitators aim to provide women who are living with high levels of stress with emotional and psychosocial support. Covering topics such as violence, sexual violence and tribal fighting, its consequences, and assisting women in identifying stressors and signs of stress, the knowledge gained in these sessions can assist those involved learn how to better support themselves and others in dealing with adversity and promoting positive coping.  

Rebecca believes this support group activity helps women to come together, create awareness on their mental health, share their experiences, develop a bond to support and learn new information from the sessions delivered to help themselves. Currently, with little to no existence of psychosocial services in the province, this program has positively impacted a lot of people, directly and indirectly through positive changes in their behavior, perception and better management of their own issues, including their relationships with others in their families and communities