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Chennai workshop links mental health professionals to city schools

On January 27 and 28, 2020 the Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF) in collaboration with citiesRISE and the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) conducted its first Practice Transformation Workshop for mental health professionals in Chennai. The Workshop seeks to develop the skillset of mental health professionals so that they more readily work in school settings, while also connecting them to various schools across Chennai.

Dr. R. Thara, Vice Chairman of SCARF, welcomed participants to the workshop before WPA President, Professor Helen Herrman, introduced WPA's vision for improving the mental health of people living in adversity and some of the ways in which it is doing that. Following them was Dr. M. Suresh Kumar, Technical Lead for citiesRISE, who spoke on the school mental health interventions carried out in Chennai and also the whole school approach.

32 mental health professionals participated in the event including psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric social workers. Facilitated by child and adolescent psychiatrists, Dr. Shiva Prakash and Dr. G.K. Kannan, the two day workshop focused on common mental health problems in children and adolescents, assessment of mental health issues in children and adolescents, legal and ethical aspects of school mental health, and management of child and adolescent mental health issues including suicide.

Participants were actively involved in the workshop, using role plays to understand and deal with the different situations that might come up in school settings. They asked questions, exchanged ideas and discussed the barriers and solutions to school mental health issues.

Following the workshop, Professor Helen Herrman visited one of the schools in Chennai, which is a part of the SCARF - citiesRISE school intervention program. There she met with school management, class teachers and students to better understand the school ethos and program. The students expressed their curiosity and interest in mental health and well-being, while Prof. Herrman expressed her appreciation for the work done by the SCARF-citiesRISE team.

India's national newspaper The HINDU carried a report of the program.


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