European project brings together institutions from nine countries to promote mental health of children from vulnerable families
The University of Coimbra (UC) is the Portuguese coordinator of the European project “Let’s Talk About Children”, which aims to promote mental health of children from vulnerable contexts, as in families with members with mental illness, economic deprivation or social integration problems. “Let's Talk About Children” (LTC) will involve teachers and other education and health professionals so that they can learn new skills to work together with families towards children's well-being.
The project is coordinated by the University of Turku (Finland), and has been funded with around €3 million by the European Commission under the EU4Health programme, which supports projects that address health challenges. It will run until 2025, involving eleven institutions from nine countries (Finland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy, Estonia, Greece, Poland and Romania). In Portugal, the Coimbra Hospital and University Centre (CHUC) is also involved.
The intervention to be implemented is based on the method that lends its name to the project, "Let's Talk About Children", "an evidence-based child-centered psychosocial intervention created in Finland by psychiatrist Tytti Solantus, in order to to promote mental health of children and prevent intergenerational transmission of mental health problems", explains psychiatrist Joaquim Cerejeira, coordinator of the project in Portugal and professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra (FMUC). “This method aims at training professionals who interact with families to acquire specific skills, which are fundamental for an early detection of the psychosocial needs of children and their families.”, Dr. Cerejeira adds.
The first step in the LTC implementation will focus on listening to the stakeholders that provide support to families in vulnerable situations (such as schools, municipalities, health services and organisations) "in order to identify and assess the existing responses, as well as any limitations and difficulties", says Joaquim Cerejeira. Afterwards comes the training of professionals who interact with families and children in education and health contexts. This training will enhance the acquirement of methodologies so that professionals "may identify early on families in vulnerable situations, in order to promote parenting skills, enhance psychosocial development of children and the mental health of the whole family, through multidisciplinary interventions".
In Portugal, the project will be implemented in elementary and middle schools in the Coimbra region and in psychiatric and mental health units for children and adults at a national level. The assessment process is already under way and the training phase for health professionals will start in June 2023. The public presentation of the project will take place in Coimbra during the symposium "Let's talk about children", which will be held in early June at the University of Coimbra.
In Portugal, Joaquim Cerejeira is joined by Ana Paula Silva, researcher at the Faculty of Medicine of the UC and the Coimbra Institute for Clinical and Biomedical Research (iCBR); Fernanda Rodrigues, FMUC professor and paediatrician; Tânia Vieira da Silva, psychiatrist, who leads the team at the Coimbra Hospital and University Centre; and child psychiatrists Maria Laureano and Sara Pedroso.
Original news article in Portuguese: Catarina Ribeiro
English version: Diana Taborda