Mann & Mariwala Health Initiative partner to create mental health model to support parents of disabled youth
Since 2011, NGO Mann has been dedicated to enabling people with disabilities to grow and lead an independent, meaningful life. A crucial aspect of their outreach is The Family Intervention Program, funded by the Mariwala Health Initiative which caters to parents of children and youth with disabilities.
Raising a child with a disability can be challenging and parents are often hesitant to talk about it, leave alone seek support. Belmira Rodrigues, parent to a 21-year-old son on the autism spectrum, chose to keep her struggles to herself at first as well.
“We were facing a lot of challenges regarding Bevan‘s behaviour, specifically his anger, stimming etc.”, recalls Belmira. She was finding it hard to cope with his meltdowns and reached out to a counsellor at Mann, a centre for people with disabilities that Bevan goes to. Mann has a caregivers’ support programme dedicated to parents of children with disabilities. Called The Family Intervention Program, this is supported by the Mariwala Health Initiative (MHI).
“My first encounter with the counsellor was at my home. She listened to my issues patiently and guided me on ways to deal with them. After a few sessions, I felt reassured that there were many people like me with the same problems”, says Belmira.
Coping mechanisms for parents of disabled kids
Now, when Bevan has meltdowns, Belmira handles him calmly. Even her interactions with others has changed. “Now I am more positive and less hyper while interacting with neighbours, friends and family”.
Suzie Paul on the other hand was concerned about how her daughter was coping with a sibling on the spectrum. “My son Sean has autism and I was worried about how my daughter was dealing with a sibling with a disability. They shared a good relationship, but there were issues”.
At Mann, Suzie learned how she could help her daughter overcome her insecurities. “Changes don’t happen instantly, and we are still working towards it, but as parents we have a clearer picture of how to deal with it”.
Founded in 2011, Mann is dedicated to helping children and youth with autism and intellectual disabilities lead an independent and meaningful life. The students come from marginalised backgrounds and Mann empowers them through holistic programmes that cater to specific needs.
Mann does this through a holistic model that supports inclusive and individualised learning achievement with training programmes. This includes concepts required to meet the challenges of society. This eventually translate to an individual’s effective participating and reaching his/her full potential. Challenges are faced by anyone directly or indirectly involved with the individual but are more common among family members who are not properly equipped to handle them. – Gitanjali Gaur, Co-founder, Mann
Improved mental health for disabled persons & families
In partnership with MHI, Mann is implementing The Family Intervention Program, which is a year-long caregivers’ support program in Mumbai. This includes counselling sessions to equip family members and caregivers with information about coping strategies. As part of this MHI is providing training support to the team at Mann who will then use these skills to equip families with the tools they need.
“There is dearth of organisations that follow a rights-based approach and centre agency of adults with intellectual disability”, says Priti Sridhar, Chief Development Officer, MHI. “Mann does this in multiple ways including working with caregivers. Integrating mental health support for all stakeholders is critical to such an approach, thus, MHI saw an opportunity to partner with Mann to co-create a model around mental health within work with adults with intellectual disabilities”. MHi plans to share the programme details widely to encourage more stakeholders in this field to adopt this practice in their work.
Larissa D’Souza, Programme Coordinator, Mann, says the sessions have also helped her communicate effectively. “I always believed that counselling is meant only for people who have a mental illness. It is has taught me to work cooperatively to solve problems. The sessions have helped me develop a way to maintain healthy, functional relations and address specific issues”
The aim of the programme is to improve the mental health outcomes of the person with disability and everyone else in his or her world. More crucially it also aims to prepare the disabled adult to live independently in the absence of caregivers.
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