At least 66 children have committed suicide in Kerala since the imposing of the lockdown in the state till the end of June 2020. With schools closed and minimum chances for social interaction, children are experiencing tremendous mental stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. In this context, Hon. Chief Minister of Kerala, Sri Pinarayi Vijayan has launched a project named 'Chiri' for ensuring the wellbeing of children in Kerala. The objective of the project is to ensuring a safe and happy childhood for children during the COVID-19 pandemic period. The alarming rate of suicide among children contemplates the fact majority of the parents are not able scientifically identify the mental health issues of their children. Thus, the problems faced by children are often left unacknowledged and unattended. Lack of awareness on well-being, in some cases, results in handling of the issues in an unscientific manner ensuing grave consequences.
Objectives of the program:
- To develop a mental health support system for children in distress with the collective intervention of the relevant stakeholders, responsible for the care and protection of children.
- To identify and scientifically addressing the behavioural, emotional, interpersonal, learning and somatic challenges of children
- To promote well-being of all children
Kerala Police has already established a CAP (Children & Police) house in Thiruvananthapuram, which is acting as the State Resource Centre for coordinating various child related projects of Kerala Police such as Student Police Cadets Program, Our Responsibility to Children Program, School Protection Groups, Child Friendly Police Stations and Hope Program A helpline number (number) of the Chiri initiative will be maintained at the CAP House. This helpline number will be publicized widely with the support of media and various social media platforms. Children facing various mental health issues, as well as parents of such children will be encouraged to call the Helpdesk and register their issues.
CAP (Children & Police) Desk
CAP desk is a peer to peer support program to support children in distress through friendly telephonic interactions. This is based on the Kutty Desk model which was successfully initiated jointly by Student Police Cadets Program and Our Responsibility to Children during the initial phase of the lockdown. 4700 children had already been supported through this unique initiative.
A pool of 15 smart children from each police district ,consisting of senior student police cadets and children participating in ORC program will be specially trained and enabled for the functioning of the CAP Desk. Details of children in need of companionship and emotional support will be carefully assigned to the CAP Desk child volunteers. They will encourage their peers in distress to speak and will listen to their worries in a compassionate and reassuring manner. They will motivate children facing stress to engage in productive activities, learning activities and games, without violating the COVID protocols. The CAP desk volunteers will also make follow-up calls to their friends assigned to them at regular intervals.
To assist the CAP Desk volunteers, a panel of mentors, psychologists and mental health experts will be put in place.
- Panel of mentors: The pool of mentors will continuously mentor and guide the children working with the CAP Desk. This pool will be formed by engaging teachers and resource persons from the SPC and ORC programs who voluntarily come forward to dedicate their time and efforts.
- Panel of psychologists : A panel of psychologists will be formed by roping in functionaries from ORC program and other Government projects. The details regarding the calls getting registered at the CAP house will be handed over to this panel. Psychologists from this panel will contact the child/parent to carry out the primary assessment. Followingly, details of children in need of support &ndash except in the case of children with severe issues- will be handed over to the CAP desk, so that children from the trained pool will contact their peers to provide companionship and emotional support.
- A panel of mental health experts: A panel of experts mostly consisting of psychiatrists and other mental health experts will be put in place. The psychologists after necessary telephonic counseling will refer the cases that need expert attention to this panel.
Panel of mentors, psychologists and mental health experts
Grass root level awareness interventions
Selected Janamythri beat officers, Anganawadi workers, School Protection Group members, ASHA Workers, School Counsellor, Kudumbashree members, functionaries of Our Responsibility to Children, Kaval, Child Protection Committees and Jagratha Samithi will be trained to reach out to children and parents with user friendly Information Education Communication materials. This attempt is aimed at educating children and parents on safeguarding the mental health during the pandemic period and passing information regarding the Chiri project.