“I believe mental health is connected to our overall health and well-being. Participating in these sessions has made me realize how important it is to share my thoughts collectively with others in a safe space,” says Luciana.
A project visit with Medair’s mental health and psychosocial support team brought me to the Beddawi area in Tripoli, North of Lebanon. Familiar to those who know Lebanon, Tripoli has long grappled with poverty, rooted in a complex and challenging environment. Neglect in its history has led to restricted access to services and growth opportunities. The Beddawi area, situated about five kilometres from the city centre, has become densely populated with limited resources and services. Compounded by the ongoing crisis, limited economic prospects and high unemployment rates have pushed the local population further into poverty, making it increasingly challenging for families to secure stable income sources and meet their basic needs.
The peer support group that welcomed me to attend is aimed at Lebanese adolescents under the age of eighteen from the Beddawi area. The group meets once a week for about two hours at the Al Ribat Association centre to cover a wide array of topics. This session focused on grief and loss. According to Tania, Medair’s mental health and psychosocial support manager, “The goal of the session is to promote the well-being and healthy psychosocial development of adolescents, in addition to creating room for improved communication between adolescents and their parents/caregivers.”
Evidently, the group of adolescents is currently navigating a series of complex challenges in a country engulfed by the crisis. This has significantly impacted their mental well-being. The nature of the crisis encompassing economic instability, political turmoil, and civil unrest has created an environment of stress and trauma. Adolescence is a critical period of identity formation, emotional regulation, and social interaction, making it particularly prone to the long-term negative effects of such a crisis. These young individuals are at risk of increased rates of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Elise, Medair’s mental health and psychosocial support officer draws from her own experience from when she was an adolescent and shares, “in general, what do adolescents require in difficult times like these? Personally, when growing up I needed to be heard and understood, I needed to feel safe sharing my fears and doubts. I required guidance without being judged. It was nice to have coping mechanisms in place that helped me deal with life in general.” With no thought process or coping mechanisms, or even a safe environment to vent, the consequences on their well-being could be detrimental. Borhan, 14 years old, a participant of the session shares, “This is my first session with the group, and I am enjoying it very much. I personally think it’s important to face our thoughts, especially in a group setting without holding back. The situation in Lebanon is quite difficult, so I understand it’s important for someone my age to have an outlet, something I can turn to vent. It feels nice to talk about that with others.”
By providing tailored interventions and safe spaces for expression, these group sessions can offer adolescents the tools to cope with their emotions, develop resilience, and navigate the challenges of the crisis, ultimately fostering their long-term mental well-being. Luciana, 15 years old, a participant of the session shares, “I believe mental health is connected to our overall health and well-being. Participating in these sessions has made me realize how important it is to share my thoughts collectively with others in a safe space. It makes me feel good to say what is on my mind and I get to learn from the others when they speak theirs.” In the long run, providing adolescents with a safe environment and outlet with a focus on coping mechanisms can ensure the continuity of a healthy and productive generation.
In Lebanon, Medair’s mental health and psychosocial support strategy is a community-based approach. A main pillar of this approach is delivering many of the services by trained, non-specialized volunteers. Medair psychosocial support volunteers are trained and empowered in various skills including group facilitation skills, supportive communication, and psychosocial support interventions. This not only allows volunteers to gain invaluable skills in interpersonal psychological well-being and resiliency but also be able to share this knowledge with those around them for a positive ripple effect starting in each one’s own family and community.
Medair’s mental health psychosocial support services in Lebanon are funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the German Federal Foreign Office.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.