Funded by the 2004 (NRK) Telethon Campaign and NORAD, Norwegian Council for Mental Health (NCMH) has since 2005 contributed to a new approach to mental health issues in the Arab region. The Beirut-based programme originated from one of the objectives of the 2004 Campaign, to support programme activities targeting children and adolescents traumatized in wars- and warlike situations.
By Arne Ørum
One region in point in this respect is the Middle East. We knew there would be additional challenges related to such involvement in an area where mental health problems generally are associated with strong taboos, and where mental health resources such as text-books and general public information are often scarce or inadequate.
Arab Resource Collective
In 2004 NCMH began collaboration with the Beirut based resource centre Arab Resource Collective (ARC). An important objective was to support production of literature and other resources for mental health in Arabic. Since the establishment of ARC in 1988, the centre has publicized Arabic resources within the field of children’s and adolescents’ upbringing, rights and education. A key competence area for ARC is translation and adaptation (“arabization”) of textbooks and other literature from foreign languages, with first Arab editions of David Werner’s books Disabled Village Children and Where there is no Doctor as the perhaps most well-known titles.
ARC modus operandi is quite unique with a regional approach comprising a network of about 60 partner organizations from the Middle East and North Africa. It is a partnership between private organizations (NGO’s), institutions, universities and to some extent government agencies, from most of the countries in the region; a process where varying needs and contexts can be taken into consideration, with feed-back from the local constituencies. ARC’s approach is also marked by collective ownership and the partner NGO’s active participation in the foundation’s board and advisory committees.
Arab Resource Collective was founded during the Lebanese civil war – and in a sense as a result of that war, and some of the other conflicts in the region – acknowledging the need to find common ground and establish cooperation across religious, cultural and national boundaries in order to realize the vision – to translate rights into realities. In order to be able to run activities during difficult times, ARC has since the beginning kept an office in Nicosia. Regional meetings are often held in Cyprus, Jordan and Egypt, to facilitate participation for partners with Israeli citizenship. Due to security problems in Lebanon, e.g. because of the Israeli invasion in 2006, and the internal security problems in Beirut 2007 – 2008, the programme in point was somewhat delayed, but was also presented with new challenges and opportunities. During and after the war, summer of 2006, ARC and its network of resource persons and organizations helped coordinate efforts to provide mental health in the most severely hit areas, in southern parts of Beirut and in southern villages.
Mental health resources
During the first phase of the programme two surveys on mental health were produced along with a bibliography of existing mental health resource material and literature in Arabic. Mental Health in 9 Arab Countries, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan; Directory of Programmes – Working in the field of mental and psychosocial health in 9 Arab countries and Mental Health Biography (Beirut 2008). ARC then finished production of the first Arabic edition of the prominent Indian-British psychiatrist Vikram Patel’s Where there is no Psychiatrist, a barefoot psychiatry manual first published in 2003.
The Arabic version, published in 2009 has been put into use by UNRWA, the UN refugee agency for Palestine refugees, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The manual is also part of a Norwegian funded development programme in Sudan, initiated and supported by the University of Oslo.
An important target group for the Mental Health Programme is for adolescents in a school context, and from 2008 ARC began translation and «arabization» of an originally Norwegian educational project Everybody has a Mental Health. The idea is to make youth acquainted with issues of mental health, and help to build identity during formative years. The process of adaptation to Arab culture has been thorough, and the project material, ready with a teacher manual will be launched during 2011.
During 2010 – 2011 ARC will make three reports about how mental health is taken care of in health legislation. The report about Lebanon is already published (2010) and Egypt and Palestine are next. Another series of surveys on how mental health is dealt with in the media is in the making.
Since 2007 ARC has produced a special newsletter on mental health http://www.mawared.org/mh/newsletter7/english/ in addition to other information material specially targeting the adolescents, such as the booklet series Youth and Healthy Living.
November 2010 the last consultative regional workshop so far was held in Amman with participants from across the region. The objective was to recapitulate experience from the first phase of the programme and to use the conference as a launch-pad for the next phase of the Norad-supported programme. Among participants were representatives from the Palestinian NGOs in Israel and from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and there were representatives from Palestinian educational- and health authorities (PA) in Ramallah. There were also representatives from UNRWA, WHO and PRCS, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
ARC partners are not only the usual like-minded NGOs, but as in this case, organizations and institutions that rarely get together to cooperate.
Norad supports the programme Mental Health for a New Generation in the Arab Region through a multi-year agreement, until 2012 so far.
Arab Resource Collective
Opprettet: 03.05.2011 11:26:36
Sist endret: 13.05.2011 10:20:49
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