With a view to addressing the service needs and gaps, the Community Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service Project provides access to mental health services to some of the most vulnerable populations that would not otherwise access such services. Over the last three and a half years, it has evolved, to provide community-based child and adolescent mental health promotive, preventive, and curative care in urban and later in rural sites. Thus, the Project implements direct service delivery for children and adolescents, training and capacity building of child care workers from community-based governmental and non-governmental agencies/institutions and professionals, including schools, child care agencies, anganwadis and health workers, material development, as well as policy and advocacy activities. The project entails a strong inter-sectoral collaboration with the health, education and social justice and empowerment sectors, including the departments of health, education and women and child development.

What Makes this Project Innovative?

  • This is the first time that a project involving multiple stakeholders and service providers across different government departments as well as non-governmental sector has been attempted. This is significant because the number of departments that deal with children are manifold. Convergent approaches have been lacking in the past because of the logistic challenges that come with them. Since children with psychosocial needs/ problems come into first contact with multiple agencies and systems, any innovative project has to address multiple stakeholders rather than restricting itself to one domain/ department.
  • Unlike other funded projects which tend to focus on research with questionable benefits to those in need of help, this is entirely a service project. Most research projects do not necessarily translate into specific treatment/ assistance options nor do they ensure services. They tend to remain in the realm of academic reports and there is hardly any evidence of a cascade to the primary level service provider.
  • The project looks at the status of children through a child development and mental health lens. This perspective has become increasingly important in the discourse on the status of children and child rights. This has become critical given the recent preoccupation with medium and long term consequences/ systemic responses to child abuse on the one hand and complexities of children in conflict with the law on the other.
  • The project involves service provision at all three levels i.e. primary, secondary and tertiary. Furthermore, it takes into consideration the comprehensive set of developmental, emotional and behaviour problems child service providers are confronted with. By and large, a major proportion of these problems either go unrecognized or untreated leading to individual and familial vulnerability. Equally importantly, it gives rise to a reduction in the efficiency of social capital, thus resulting in a huge loss of human potential.
  • The project has a strong capacity building component that covers preventive, promotive and first-level/ basic curative services. The difference between capacity building initiatives in this project versus some others is that here, training and capacity building focuses strongly on practical skill training. This means skill building workshops on understanding children’s issues and developing basic and advanced communication skills with children. In-depth training workshops will focus on working with more complex children’s psychosocial health issues such as trauma and related context-specific issues pertaining to vulnerable children and adolescents. Training workshops will use participatory learning methods, with emphasis on practical skills, and the use of creative methodologies such as play, art, theatre etc.

A pilot project, since none of its kind exists in India, it has aimed to develop a model for community-based child and adolescent mental health that will be replicable in other (urban and rural) areas of the country. It seeks to address the gap in child and adolescent mental health services in the Indian context, wherein screening and early intervention and/or psychosocial care provision by non-specialists, exists to an extremely limited extent; and where provision of mental health services are largely restricted to curative services in tertiary care facilities, thereby limiting access to most children in need.