Srinagar: Cheerful voices of children echo in the newly furbished building at SMHS Hospital. Some parents try to keep the energies of little ones engaged in the multiple waiting area activities. One after one, they are called into the line of rooms, each one having a plate displayed on the door, specifying the specialty and services available inside.
This is the new Child Guidance and Wellbeing Center (CGWC) started by the GMC Srinagar last week. The Center is supported by UNICEF and is equipped to provide a range of mental health services and interventions for children.
Started in December 2018 in the Community Health Center of SMHS Hospital, the Child Psychiatry took off well in Kashmir. Parents and guardians have been seeking expert help on complaints ranging from learning difficulties to behavioural issues. The success of the Center can be gauged from the fact that nearly 10,000 children and adolescents were registered in 2019 alone. In 2020, even amidst the raging COVID19 pandemic, approximately 9000 registrations took place at the Center. However, the dearth of space at the building that also houses the De-Addiction Center posed constraints in operation.
Psychological First Aid was provided online and onsite to 1830 children during the pandemic. These children had suffered mental health issues due to lockdowns, being out of school, losing a family member, losing a friend, being confined and a number of other norms brought into their lives since 2020. “The pandemic has not been easy on any of us and the children are no exception. We have child psychiatrists, child psychologists, occupational therapists, remedial educators, speech therapists, social workers and so many other experts available here,” said Dr Arshad Hussain, who calls the CWGC a “dream come true”.
The 16 member team at the center is trained to provide Psychological First Aid, do assessment on various mental health parameters, including speech, intellectual and learning abilities, provide counseling and other interventions and create a healthy environment for children at their places of learning and living.
The teams from the Center have been taking mental health awareness messages out and around.
A group of young counselors has just returned from Gurez, while another one discusses its plan to go to remote areas of district Kupwara.
“The aim is to increase understanding about mental health of children, their special needs and the availability of a number of services that we can provide when needed,” says Dr Zaid Wani, the in-charge of the CGWC.
He said the CGWC is well equipped with an experienced multidisciplinary team that provides specialised services like counselling, therapies, different assessments, legal assistance, pharmacological intervention, community intervention and other psycho-social supportive programs. Its broader functions are OPD services, Psycho Education, Mass Awareness, Community Outreach and Capacity Development Programs of various stakeholders. “We have been in touch with a number of other departments and agencies to get referrals and train workers on the ground,” Dr Wani said.