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Media as Psycho-social Support for Young People
of the project's work
Humanitarian Organisation Duga
Vasic Marina, Project co-ordinator
Izetbegovic Anka, Director
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Tel: +387 33 670 249
Primary and secondary schools
Centre for Social Welfare
Community mental health centres
Ministry of Social Welfare
Ministry of Health
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Project has its origins in three key factors:
Monde and mental health professionals from Bosnia set up a psychological
reception and support centre for adolescents in Sarajevo;
the need to provide psychological support to children and
adolescents of Sarajevo, traumatised by war;
a government-inspired project to restructure mental health
services with a community-based approach.
In pre-war Bosnia the healthcare system was focused on hospitals
and clinics to the detriment of primary healthcare structures. Psychiatric
services were well established and organized according to the following
Psychiatrists worked very closely to the primary healthcare
worker, using primarily drug-based therapy and gave little importance
to psychotherapy. Psychiatric care for children and adolescents
was provided in the Hospital Clinic for child psychiatry. Little
attention was given to preventative care or the role of the community;
the psychiatric service in Kosovo Hospital had multidisciplinary
patient therapy teams involving both mental health specialists and
non-medical specialists such as social workers. Their main activity
was to take care of patients' social problems and ensure their links
to the external world on discharge;
the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction was attached
to the hospital day-care service, which was trying to develop a
children and adolescents with special needs were treated
in specialized institutions within a system of special social protection.
It became evident, especially during the war, that a new community-based
approach was needed. During the war, children and adolescents came
under severe stress. They were constantly confronted by their parents'
anxiety for their safety; their movements were restricted; they
missed school and were cut off from their friends. The educational
system was seriously disrupted. Classes were interrupted or continued
in incredible conditions - in dungeons, without books, and even
without qualified teachers. As a result countless children suffered
psychological distress. Some psychological problems are already
evident, but most will be expressed at some time in the future.
Diagnosis, therapy and prevention work in the post-war period has
to adopt a psycho-socio-cultural model of approach to tackle the
issues at question. Mental health services started to shift from
the medical model to the social model of provision.
Aims and objectives
To enable young people to find their own way and contribution to
society through their strengths and capabilities
Offering mental health protection to children and
adolescents in accordance with new healthcare system policy.
Meeting the needs of children and adolescents for
social and psychological support, and welcoming them to a readily
Extending that support to their families.
Creating awareness in the community of the psycho-social
problems and introducing preventive action in which the community
can actively participate.
Supporting the most vulnerable children and adolescents
by offering the specific treatment methods or personalized support
Offering training opportunities for health, education
and social work to professionals working in the psycho-social aspects
Establishing and maintaining links with institutions
and partners able to contribute to the support of the target population.
Establishing partnerships with local and international
agencies involved with the target population.
The multi-disciplinary team of professionals working on the project
consists of two psychiatrists, a social worker, two psycho-pedagogues,
a special pedagogue, a psychologist, a speech therapist and collaborators
- a photographer, art designer and journalist.
Children and adolescents from four to 24 years of age, as well
Teaching staff and the local community in general.
Involvement of target population
Clients are involved in various activities at all stages of this
project. They are also involved in evaluation, through questionnaires
completed at the beginning and end of each individual treatment
and group activity.
Summary of project
The project of 'Psycho-social support to children and adolescents'
started in 1994. A Médecins
du Monde mental health co-ordinator was sent to Bosnia to explore
the situation. There were several organizations interested in children,
but no projects for young people aged 12-18, despite the fact that
adolescents are most vulnerable to psychological disturbances, especially
in time of war.
The Bosnia Pilot Committee was set up in September 1994 and in
April 1995 Centre Duga was officially opened. Duga was registered
as a local non- governmental organization (NGO) in April 1999.
The aim and objectives are achieved through:
individual consultations/psychotherapy, without the use
psychological tests carried out by the clinical psychologist;
treatment of developmental disorders by a special pedagogue;
treatment of speech problems by the speech therapist;
The group setting is important and an indispensable element in
the life and development of adolescents. Group activities have a
dual purpose. Firstly, they are for children/adolescents who require
socialization in a safe environment where they can explore their
doubts and problems and thereby receive group support and understanding.
Groups provide an opportunity to explore and heal while exposed
to a variety of people with different ethnic and social backgrounds
and with a palette of beliefs, values, attitudes and priorities.
Secondly, group activities provide an invaluable chance for early
detection of disturbances and appropriate intervention. Prevention
work is particularly important in case of adolescents who are more
likely than other groups to engage in high-risk behaviours and their
consequences. It also provides an opportunity for social affirmation,
development of skills and abilities, and constructive use of spare
The main concern for the youth population at present is boosting
their morale and self-esteem in order to prepare them for future
challenges in a society where the employment rate is very low and
where young people hardly see any future perspective. Younger children
who are returning with their families are faced with a new culture
and language barriers, and adolescents who are returning to their
homes of origin have to be integrated into a new environment such
as schools and social networks.
Parents often need counselling and advice on how to cope with changes
that their children are facing in the period of adolescence, as
well as advice on how to cope with children with special needs.
Duga offers support to adolescents with special needs by equipping
them with knowledge necessary for normal functioning within the
community and ways of challenging prejudice and stereotyping.
10 group activities are divided into four sections:
Creative-socialization: Photo group, Journalist Group, Radio
Group, Art Workshop, and Creative-socialization Group;
Support groups with elements of confrontation: Cinema Forum,
Support Group, and School of Parenting;
Educational therapy: Group of Adolescents with Special Needs;
Prevention work: Bibliotherapy.
The Journalist Group produces an Alternative Youth Magazine Trash
which is published every three months and is in close cooperation
with the Photo Group for the purposes of illustrations and photos.
Members of the Radio Group have live sessions every two weeks at
the Student eFM Radio station.
Bibliotherapy has been introduced recently and is the first activity
to take place in primary schools. It has been adopted according
to the books and programme developed by Dr. Gervais from Quebec
University in Canada. It is meant for children aged 8 to 12 who
do not necessarily have any significant psychological disturbances.
It is primarily prevention work aimed at developing strategies for
coping with stress and anxiety imposed by different life circumstances,
from divorce to relationships with disabled people. It has shown
to be very effective and well accepted, and we are now exploring
the possibility of expanding the programme.
Médecins du Monde
Médecins du Monde
CORDAID - Holland
104, 221,73 EUR
6, 876,88 EUR
41, 133,43 EUR
152, 232,04 EUR
Strengths of project
The young people find a neutral, discreet environment in Duga,
compared with traditional institutions such as school or the clinic.
They therefore feel more confident about coming forward to express
their problems and less stigmatized by outmoded attitudes which
still label people who need psychological support as 'insane'. The
result is a much better relationship, which in turn increases the
quality of the aid provided, and the potential for individuals to
benefit. This combination of factors is an integral part of the
community-based approach to psychiatry and the promotion of psychology
outside the framework of the hospital.
Developing a community-based approach to mental health and the
reform of mental health service provision.
Internal evaluation is conducted every three months through questionnaires
completed by clients, parents and therapists.
An external evaluation focusing on the organizational structure
was conducted in 2000. In January 2002 a qualitative external evaluation
report was completed.
Through this project we discovered that adolescents are the most
vulnerable section of the population. We learned that timely recognition
of their problems is very important if we are to help them properly.
The approach to each of their problems must be very serious and
Young people come willingly to Duga, because they know they will
find professional and sympathetic help in a pleasant atmosphere,
without being stigmatized.
Offering a community-based approach to mental health.
Providing psychiatric and psychological support to children
and adolescents through individual consultations.
Enabling beneficiaries of group activities to feel positive
about themselves, as well as detection of any underlying psychological
Providing career guidance to children and adolescents.
Providing psycho-social support to the families of beneficiaries
Raising community awareness of mental health problems by
organizing meetings and round-table discussions.
Establishing links with institutions and partners providing
psycho-social support to children and adolescents.
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