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Off the mark!

It was great that the KRG Minister for Education, Alan Hama Saeed, attended the closing ceremony of the workshop on Mental Health for social workers in Erbil schools at ETTC on 17 December. It was a very visible way to show the ministry’s commitment to improving mental health provision for KRI’s school students. And on Kurdistan flag day, too!

For us, flag day is about respecting the sacrifices of the Kurdish people, but it is also about hope and tolerance.

Mental health has a direct relevance here. Some of the scars from suffering in KRI are all too visible. Some less so. And that is true of many societies. All too often, mental health problems are brushed under the carpet and left to fester.

It is no surprise that many adult mental health issues have their roots in childhood. And that is an opportunity for hope. With the right training, human skills and tools, social workers in schools are ideally placed to take early preventive action.

So, it was great to hear the Minister stress the importance of mental health and psycho-social support in the classroom. As he noted, there are around 1.8m students in education in KRI – just under one-third of the population. The ministry employed around 1,000 social workers to cover the 6,500 schools in KRI.

The Minister welcomed the pilot training and it was great to hear him ask for more mental health training and for the pilot programme to be extended to cover all of KRG’s governorates.

For us, the main takeaways have been:

** the sense of engagement from the participants; every time we dialed in to watch the training there was lively debate and a desire to make the training practical and relevant to the work to understand. And that is indeed what it is all about: detecting mental health issues in schoolchildren and helping them address issues.

** And a real partnership between ETTC, who have been excellent throughout, the ministry, the social workers and us.

** There is a real appetite for more training and lots more to do

We have taken the first steps. Here is to some more!

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