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Training on Animation techniques in Southwest Detroit

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Comments are off

In early February 2017, BasicNeeds US partners, Southwest Solutions with support from the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, hosted BasicNeeds founder Chris Underhill to lead a training on Animation techniques in Southwest Detroit.


Approximately 50 consumers and mental health providers from across the city came together to learn about and practice community animation techniques and begin a group process of identifying community needs. The BasicNeeds US team were excited to welcome a leadership team from Neighborhood Service Organization who are joining as a second local partner. During the two-day training, participants learned simple development tools for energizing and empowering groups and problem-solving through role-plays.

On day 2 the group used these techniques to engage in discussions about the experience of living with mental illness in Southwest Detroit and to identify community needs. Ideas and feedback gathered from this event will supplement a more formal community needs assessment being conducted by the BasicNeeds Detroit team. Participants were very excited to work together and many emerged as leaders, finding “voice” sometimes for the first time. A community wide share-out of the results is planned for late April 2017 with a focus on strengthening self-help groups and improving access to services for the community.

For more information on the BNUS programme, click here.

Scaling up mental health services in Shunping County, China

Posted on January 27, 2017 by Comments are off

At the invitation of the Ministry of Health, BasicNeeds initiated some exploratory work in 2010 – 2011 in China. Following that, BasicNeeds China successfully completed a pilot project in Shunping County under Baoding Municipality. Based on the pilot’s achievements, BasicNeeds is currently scaling up access to mental health and development services in the region, and by the end of 2017 hopes to be operating in all 10 townships of Shunping County.

To date, over 5,200 people including those affected with mental illness, their carers and family members have benefitted from the Shunping project.

Here are some highlights of 2016:

BasicNeeds China began work in four new townships, Anyang, Taiyu, Hekou and Baiyun, thus covering 8 townships of the project so far. The regular and reliable running of the project’s routine activities (monthly mental health clinics, home visits, self-help group meetings) over the last year by our local Shunping partners have ensured the project’s overall sustainability. As more clinics are carried out, the news spreads, and more and more people hear about BasicNeeds’ support for people living with mental illness and epilepsy, and they, too, want help and support.


Mental health clinic

Self-Help Groups (SHGs) also ran smoothly and achieved good results. 5 SHGs were established and were given start-up funds after submitting their group’s plans for approval. 1 SHG in Yaoshan town cultivated grapes, 2 SHGs in Anyang town raised sheep and cultivated beans, and 2 SHGs in Taiyu town raised donkeys and sheep. According to BasicNeeds China’s assessments, the SHGs conducted their activities well. On 12th September, a charity bazaar was held by the BasicNeeds China team with the support of the Sixth People’s Hospital of Hebei Province for the participants of the Liang Fen Zhuang SHG. The group’s livelihoods activity is cultivating grapes and the bazaar was an opportunity to sell their produce, and raise awareness of mental health. Many people from the local community came to buy the grapes and interact with the participants – a great way to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in society. The bazaar was a great success and the participants were pleased that all their grapes were sold. Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, a local newspaper, also reported the story.

The SHG livelihoods activities

Participant involved in livelihoods activity

In the 8 townships of Shunping County that BasicNeeds China has reached so far, carers’ lives have also changed a lot; they don’t feel the shame and stigma of caring for their loved ones affected by mental illness. Regular training sessions for carers and the patients have improved the ability of family members to provide basic treatment at home. Training was also given to village doctors in Puyang and Yaoshan townships to recognize mental illness symptoms in order to provide appropriate community mental health services.


Training village doctors

On 10th October, World Mental Health Day, the BasicNeeds China team provided free consultations and treatments to 150 people with mental illness or epilepsy. The Hebei Province Sixth People’s Hospital, the Shunping County Disabled Persons Federation, the Shunping Health Bureau, the Shunping Centre for Disease Control and local volunteers supported the BasicNeeds team to conduct these activities.


Free consultations and treatments on World Mental Health Day

The Shunping project has created partnerships, systems, training programmes and a health care structure with people benefitting from its medical, social and livelihoods activities. By the end of 2017, the BasicNeeds Model for Mental Health and Development will be operating fully in all 10 townships of Shunping County. This means monthly mental health clinics will continue to run regularly, new self-help groups will be formed and livelihood activities initiated, and annual community awareness-raising and advocacy will carry on. BasicNeeds’ local partners will be able to continue running the Shunping project themselves when BasicNeeds exits, thereby sustaining the work we have done in China.

Sustaining Children’s Clubs in Sri Lanka

Posted on January 19, 2017 by Comments are off

SL Banner 2

BasicNeeds’ current project in Sri Lanka is an unusual one as it focuses primarily on children’s mental health and well-being. The 2004 tsunami and a long civil war which ended in 2009 had a devastating impact on Batticaloa in the Eastern region of Sri Lanka. Coping with the aftermath of both a conflict and a natural disaster is extremely difficult, and the children face family breakdown, alcohol and drug misuse, domestic violence and absent parents.

Now in its fourth year, the project which is implemented by BasicNeeds Sri Lanka in Batticaloa district, is carried out in partnership with the Eastern Self Reliant Community Awakening Organization (ESCO), and funded by The British Asian Trust. Children’s Clubs (CCs), established by BasicNeeds and our partners, were set up to provide children (aged 10 – 18) with a way of coping with those issues – helping them to manage mental distress and preventing them from under performing at school, where teachers are often not adequately trained or equipped to recognise or deal with mental health problems. The CCs improve their lives by providing a space where children can relax, play, be with others, make friends and learn new skills.

Through this project, 26 CCs have been established, the majority based in schools in very remote locations. They are run by children themselves. These clubs introduce a ‘child-to-child’ support approach within the school environment. Their main focus is to develop children’s mental resilience and build their self-confidence so they can learn better at school.

A programme of training for the children to enable them to run the Clubs themselves gives them skills such as handling money, keeping minutes and records and providing leadership.  Club leaders are first trained by professionals and then cascade the knowledge down among the other children, training each other. Children learn about child rights and well-being, how to negotiate their rights with adults, how to recognise and deal with mental health problems, how to manage conflict and anger, and how to support each other and solve problems.

This final year of the project (ending March 2017) aims to make the Clubs sustainable, i.e. properly embedded in, and supported by, the local government authorities and their local community.  As part of our exit strategy, the focus of the last six months has been on developing Action Plans for the CCs through a consultative process. 675 children from 26 Children Clubs participated in preparing their Club’s own Action Plan. The process demonstrated the values of participation and respecting the views and opinions of others. Executive members of the CCs presented a summary of the Action Plan to their respective Divisional Secretariat, seeking support and approval.

Prepration of Action Plan

Children preparing their Action Plan

The state has recognized the Children’s Clubs, and the roles they will play in reducing challenges faced by children. Thus, 24 Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) have been signed between the Divisional Secretary, ESCO and the CCs, mentioning the roles and responsibilities of the state, CCs and ESCO in implementing the Action Plans.

This is the first time an MOU has been signed between a CC and the state in Sri Lanka, thus recognising CCs as a Community Based Organisation (CBO). Child Rights Protection Officers (CRPOs) are now directly involved in supporting the efficient functioning of these clubs and have made arrangements for the children to handle bank transactions. CRPO officers will personally approve all transactions from the bank, which keeps them aware of all the activities happening in the CCs.

The CCs and the government stakeholders are now communicating directly to address various issues that affect children’s well-being and performance in school. Issues of early child marriages, child abuse and school dropouts are reported and addressed quickly. In addition the government stakeholders are gradually realising that they should have been doing work that project staff have been. Government staff are now making efforts to support the continued functioning of the CCs as part of their official role.

“The children have learnt to talk and share their own opinions, views and needs, without hurting the other person’s feelings, with great maturity. The listeners value the children’s views. This has come about because of the opportunities and trainings the children have received as members of Children’s Clubs, and how they are able to function now.” Mr V Kugathasan – District Child Rights Protection Officer.

Signing of MOU

Representatives of the Children’s Clubs signing an MOU with local government stakeholders

Equally crucial to the project’s success has been the training of teachers, head teachers, parents and government education officials. They learn how to recognise signs of unhappiness, under performance and mental stress in children and how best to support them at home or in a child-friendly way at school. In some schools teachers start the day with relaxation programmes.  Some teachers have started art therapy programmes, enabling them to identify children with mental health problems. The school principals are also accommodating of changes to the school’s regular practices.

Both children and teachers have reported positive changes in the school environment. For example, punishments are reduced; the new found trust in their CC’s relationships has made it possible for the children to openly share their problems with each other; teachers are now taking interest in teaching different groups, such as slow learners and children with disabilities, and they pay more attention, listening and responding to children’s needs; and teachers make home visits to meet children’s parents where there are behavioural issues or low school performance.

“I am a teacher and used punishment as a way of disciplining students, but I have realised it is not the answer. The trainings made me realise that reasons for misbehaviour need understanding and / or compromising and I need to encourage students. Following this approach has given me a lot of happiness, not only at school and but in family life with my own children as well.” – Mr. K Vickneeshwaran, Teacher.

BNSL Teachers and Children

Open discussions between children and teachers

Although the parents would prefer BasicNeeds’ continued presence overseeing the CCs, they understand that the project has to come to an end and are happy with the exit strategy. Parents now support their children by carrying out activities in the Action Plans and ensuring the children’s safety while going to and from CC meetings. They also help identify children who have mental health issues within the community and make referrals to the relevant authorities. Parents and their children have found a way of communicating with each other and have learnt to express their opinions and needs. Punishing as a method of disciplining is decreasing and parents are using other encouraging methods. Relationships between parents and their children have improved and therefore support for the CCs’ functions has increased.

BNSL Parents and Children

Parents involved in the Club meetings

Our aim of making the CCs locally sustainable is now being realised. The children themselves are able to access government funding to continue running their own Clubs, know how to support each other to become resilient and healthy members of the community; and the adults around them, parents and teachers, provide a safe and supportive environment for them at home and in school. This has taken four years of hard work, but will create long term change for the children and their local communities.

Highlights of 2016

Posted on December 16, 2016 by Comments are off

Thank you for making 2016 an incredible year for BasicNeeds!

With your support, over 680,000 lives have been transformed since we began work in 2000.

Check out the highlights of the year here.


BasicNeeds case study included in global mental health handbook

Posted on November 28, 2016 by Comments are off

BasicNeeds has been selected as a case study in the latest publication on global mental health titled ‘The Palgrave Handbook of Sociocultural Perspectives on Global Mental Health’. The handbook explores challenges and opportunities that exist in efforts aimed at addressing inequities in mental health provision across the globe.

The case study ‘BasicNeeds: Scaling up Mental Health and Development’, authored by our Founder Chris Underhill, Special Advisor Shoba Raja and Volunteer Sebastian Farquhar, highlights how the global mental health challenge can be addressed and scaled up, especially in low- and middle-income countries using the BasicNeeds Model for Mental Health and Development.

Taking a holistic approach, the BasicNeeds Model addresses the health, social and economic needs of people with mental illness and their families. The Model has gained global recognition for its innovative interlinking of mental health care, poverty alleviation and good practice, and this case study describes its operations using examples in the field.

For more information on the book, please click here.

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