Improving Wellbeing Through Education – Integrating Community Based Psychosocial Support into Education in Emergencies
This document develops the use of the Community Based approach to Psychosocial Support (CBPS) in educational settings and presents FCA’s experiences in improving well-being through education in various countries.
Emergency situations present a number of threats to the safety, mental and physical health, and overall development of children and youth. Emergencies may have additional impact on the functioning of families and communities, which in turn impacts the development of children and youth. Additionally, an emergency can have a big impact on the whole education system, including effects on teachers and education authorities, on infrastructure and on the functioning of the education system and services.
More than half of the world’s forcibly displaced people are children, for whom displacement seems to be particularly damaging. Many will spend their childhood away from home, sometimes separated from their families. Some children may have witnessed or experienced violent acts and, while in exile, are at risk of abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation, trafficking, or recruitment into armed groups. The combined weight of exposure to crisis in their countries of origin, followed by migration and finally resettlement and adjustment to a new context, exposes children to several cumulative risks to their physical, emotional, and social development. Additionally, they may face challenges, such as altered family dynamics, assuming the role of caregiver for younger siblings, or for psychologically and physically injured parents. At the same time they might need to manage a new language, education system, and culture, typically under difficult economic and legal circumstances.
Children and youth can display three key types of stress responses: positive, tolerable, and toxic. A positive stress and a tolerable stress will most likely not cause permanent damage even though the tolerable stress can be serious and be related for instance to the death of a family member, to a serious illness or injury and to a natural disaster. Supportive relationships with adults in the community will enhance the child’s adaptive coping skills and sense of control, which in turn will reduce the stress response. The third and most serious form of stress response, toxic stress, can overcome a child’s undeveloped coping mechanisms and lead to long-term impairment and illness. It can occur when there is a strong, frequent, or prolonged activation of the stress systems, while supporting adult relationships might not be available. Circumstances that can precipitate toxic stress are for instance child abuse or neglect and exposure to violence.