Providing Psychosocial support for a mother in distress

Often overlooked Mental Health & Psychosocial Support helps a mother of four recover from tragedies.

A mother holding her young child
13 July 2022

Jovii* (name changed) is from Hmong ethnic group. She is a mother of 4 children, including a 7-year-old daughter living with multiple disabilities and an 8-month-old son. Her husband, who was violent, passed away in Jan 2022. According to her ethnic tradition and custom, she could not go back to her parents because she was no longer part of the family after getting married.

After her husband passed away, Jovii had to work to support her family while looking after her children at the same time. There were days when she would do embroidery until midnight just to earn 50,000 LAK (approx. 4 USD), an amount enough for buying rice for one day. She was always worried about the income and her children.

In February 2022, Mr. Bounthiang Phimmavong, the Head of the Social Welfare Division of the Khoun District Labour and Social Welfare Office, led his team to conduct home visits. They found Jovii in a concerning mental state because of the financial and household situation. “I do not want to take any medicine, I think my life can end now.” Jovii told the team.

After the visit, the team had an urgent meeting to discuss Jovii’s case and formulated a case plan. In addition to counselling, regular home visits, and immediate direct assistance, the team helped to follow up with her late husband’s workplace to ensure that Jovii receives her beneficiary allowances in accordance with the laws and regulations. The team also arranged free-of-charge medical check-ups and treatment for Jovii’s daughter, who is living with disabilities.

After several visits and counselling sessions, Jovii felt more motivated and started going out and meeting with neighbours. She consulted with friends, relatives, and searched for information online on different income sources. She found her interest in collecting traditional herbs from the forest, something she learnt from her relatives years ago. The new economic activity is now earning her around 2,000,000 LAK (approx. 163 USD) per month.

“Thank you for listening to me and giving me suggestions. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome these challenges without your support. Thank you for helping me stay strong for my children.” Jovii said to Mr. Bounthiang during a family visit in May 2022.

There were also challenges in parenting. “My sons were bullied at school because their father passed away. It was not easy. I encouraged them to be strong and patient and not to retaliate against those bullies,” Jovii also offered to share her experiences with other women who are facing similar challenges. “I would like those women to be strong and independent,” she added.

“I am so glad we were able to help Jovii and her children. MHPSS is often overlooked. Now I can see how it is essential for improving the well-being of children and families in our community,” said Mr. Bounthiang. In supporting Jovii, he utilized the skills and knowledge he learnt from a recent Child Protection and Case Management Training, organized by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MOLSW) with support from UNICEF.

Since 2019, UNICEF has been working with the MOLSW to better support children with disabilities and their households. Under the partnership, MOLSW established multi-sectoral technical teams at national and sub-national levels, conducted trainings and regular home visits to ensure the rehabilitation of children with disabilities. WWith support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), UNICEF has been piloting a child protection system model in Xiengkhouang province under the project “Child Protection System Strengthening through Piloting of an Incentive-based Approach (2021-2024)”. The project is piloted in Khoun and Pek district, Xiengkhouang province.

Currently, UNICEF is continuing its support to link the CP services with cash transfers to households with children with disabilities in pilot sites in collaboration with social protection program. UNICEF also supports MHPSS capacity building among officials to strengthen the resilience of children and their families and help them cope with adversity during and after a crisis.


*name and image in the story are changed to protect the family and child’s identity