Promotion of Play to Strengthen Mental Wellbeing in the Amazon Published: 04 Sep 2023

In the fourth of his blog posts about the mental health component of Amazon Hope Medical Programme (PMEAP), Project Coordinator Román Rodriguez talks about the development of training activities to help community members work through their issues and learn to appreciate the importance of talking about and identifying their problems. 

Blog 4: Promotion of Play 

One of the important components of the PMEAP services is that of education, with an objective to strengthen the capacities of community members to practice more healthy and preventative habits in their daily lives.

In this way, they themselves will be positive agents in improving their own health and development situations, without depending on the presence of the PMEAP ships for it.

According to the Mental Health Maps that were made of these communities, there are many socio-emotional problems that must be addressed here, such as anxiety, depression, lack of control over emotions, poor impulse control, low self-esteem, family violence, alcoholism, high school dropout rates, inappropriate parenting habits, and adolescent pregnancy (PMEAP, 2021-2022).

For this reason, it was decided that the mental health programme should include training activities (workshops, talks) on the ships and in the communities themselves (schools, homes, open spaces in the community) on topics such as:

** Promotion of play between girls and boys and between parents and children. In these places where survival is the most important thing every day, games are rarely made a priority **

** Drawing, painting and other forms of art workshops with girls, boys, adolescents, or families, enabling participants to focus on the healthy expression of emotions **

** Strategies for the identification and management of emotions: breathing, dialogue, physical and artistic activities, relaxation, and meditation **

** Developing self-esteem and drawing up a life project **

** Comprehensive sex education and prevention of adolescent pregnancy ** 

** Prevention of alcoholism (especially in adolescents) ** 

** Prevention of family violence and intimate partner violence (with adults) ** 

** Healthy parenting (aimed at mothers and fathers) ** 

** Psychological first aid ** 

One of the psychologists used the following metaphor during a workshop with adolescents:

“Just as the clouds turn black and have to release the rain to unload and the day clears, so too our mind when it is full of worries and sadness must unload”.

Using natural phenomena from the community members’ own environment to explain their mental processes is a strategy that facilitates understanding and healing.

Between 2021 and 2023, 307 workshops were held with more than 5,000 participants, which is an important achievement considering that the PMEAP is the only institution that carries out this type of activity in these communities.

In addition to being an important training space, these workshops were an opportunity to strengthen the bonds within the communities and between members and psychologists.

In this way, the PMEAP is strengthening the capacities of the communities to face the adversities that afflict them, demonstrating that they are not only victims of reality but also leading actors with the ability and tools to achieve their own development.

Stay tuned for future posts on the mental health component of PMEAP's work: next month, Román will be talking about the crucial role of community health agents in building awareness of and increasing access to these services in the Peruvian Amazon.