Guatemalan parents have great access to child care and the work of the stringers behind the scenes in our Developing Mental Wealth series is among the best in the world.
Halfway through our series we’re looking at people and projects that are truly changing lives through promoting the mental health of people in all four corners of the world. From Yemen to Liberia to Guatemala, what have we learned so far? Series editor Daisy Greenwell reports.
1. Stringers’ job is one of the best jobs in the world
You may not have heard of the term stringer, but you may have read their work. Stringers are freelance journalists who do on-the-ground reporting in all kinds of countries for news organizations, named after the string that once measured their column inches (and determined their salary). So far during this series we’ve deployed journalists to six countries, sending them into the heart of some of the most impactful mental health projects around the world. Often, I wish I was there instead of at my desk in England, talking face to face with visionary founders and the people whose lives they are making a difference. There aren’t many jobs that offer the opportunity to get close to the people who are really changing things, to ask as many questions as you want.
2. Reporting in the Global South is much more complex than in the UK
Behind every article we publish goes a lot of sweat, thought and logistical jiggy pokery from a team ranging from editors to reporters, photographers and interviewers. Making sure everyone is in the same place at the same time can be a logistical challenge. This is even more evident when it is happening in a country 5,000 miles away, geographically and culturally.
For our article published earlier this month Swadeshi Mahila Mandal Who are empowering Guatemalan women after decades of marginalization We recruited Sandra Cuff, a journalist in Guatemala, to visit this project. She immediately encountered an unusual physical obstacle in executing her commission.
Cuffe explains: In response to prosecutors’ efforts to overturn the election results, indigenous leaders led months of protests for democracy, including highway blockades that lasted for weeks. Reporting in a country like Guatemala can be difficult because, between the political crisis and the poor condition of the country’s highway infrastructure, there is no guarantee that travel will be possible.
We faced a different, but equally difficult problem when trying to photograph members of Yemen The Best Team, a free sports group that has sprung up across the country, helping people stay fit and healthy during the ongoing civil war. On the eve of the photographers visit al-Thawra Park in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where one of the groups meets before dawn during prayers, the government announced a ban on groups of people gathering outside. Their photoshoot was canceled for the foreseeable future.
In each case, we had no choice but to be flexible, adjust our plans, and move forward regardless. Note yourself that an article that would take a few weeks to complete in the UK may take twice as long when working in such countries.
Yemeni men exercise together in Sanas al-Thawra Park, in the capital city, as part of ‘Best Team’, a free Swedish exercise club spread across the country. Image: Reuters
3. Guatemalan parents have deep pockets of child care
When photographer James Rodriguez recorded his shots Swadeshi Mahila Mandal During the project in Guatemala, we were interested to see so many women who were carrying on their backs children who were not their own. It seems that parenting in Guatemala is different to the UK, it is shared more equally within the community. It discussed a new study from the University of Cambridge of the indigenous Mbendjele Bayaka in the Republic of Congo, which caught my attention. The researchers found that in this community, more than half of the child’s cries were attended to by the mother’s support network rather than by the mother. Would a British mother who is home alone with her child all day agree with the study’s authors, who concluded that the conditions under which humans evolved to care for children, and the conditions in which many parents find themselves today? find, there is a mismatch between them. , A straw poll of my friends would suggest 100% yes.
Elsa Cortez, 26, weaves a belt while carrying her 1-year-old niece in Guatemala. Mahila Mandals run by indigenous women at the local level have changed their lives. Image: James Rodriguez
4. Once again, the Nordic countries are ahead
What is it about the Nordic countries and their ability to top almost every ranking of human development, from public health care to education and happiness? Even people experiencing psychosis, one of the most dangerous symptoms of mental illness, are better off in Finland. Only 15% of people with schizophrenia are employed in the UK. In Finland, 86% of patients with serious mental health conditions return to work and education. How? In the 1980s, when Finland had the highest rates of psychosis in Europe, psychiatrists developed a model of care that transformed the outcomes for people in crisis. Now the UK is testing this with a five-year study of the open dialogue approach in NHS mental health clinics in Dorset, Kent and London. The results are due in April 2024 and the psychiatrists we spoke to believe they could revolutionize the treatment of mental illness in the UK and beyond.
Dr Russell Razzaq, an East London psychiatrist, has been instrumental in bringing the Finnish approach to psychosis, known as ‘open dialogue’, to the UK. Image: Sam Bush
5. Many of the most exciting grassroots mental health projects are running in Africa
We’ve been surveying the planet in search of great community-based mental health projects, and time and time again, they seem to be taking root in Africa. From friendship bench of Zimbabwe, for a project to deliver CBT and cash transfers to the East child soldiers in liberiaand Kenyan NGO goals End FGM through intergenerational treatmentAfrica is often a leader when it comes to thinking about mental health.
Although we want to ensure a good geographical spread in the series, my main priority as editor will be the stories. Stories that showcase the most creative, interesting, and potentially scalable ways communities are finding to reduce mental health stress in their lives. A number of African stories authentically reflect the most exciting developments in the world of mental health. If you have any project to suggest, drop me email id, would love to hear from you.
Main image: FGM survivors at a trauma-informed survivor leadership training course delivered by Girl Generation in Kenya: Zeitun Abass Omar, Ralia Roba and Dekha Ahmed. Credit: Khadija Farah
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