Psychosocial support – A universal love language

Equipping people with the skills to assist children

05 October 2021 | Skole
Jeanette Diergaardt

The Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) driven by various African states is currently one of the leading psychosocial support programmes for children. African countries that form a part of the REPSSI are: Mozambique, Maputo, Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

REPSSI has held these forums for the past five years. Various emergency situations have had a negative impact on the lives of children. The support programme looks to empower various stakeholders that are involved in the lives of children.

The organisation has set out accessible data to teachers and social workers to help children manage their emotions and their reactions to various troublesome situations and circumstances.

The yearly forum will be taking place from 12 to 14 October 2021. The forum will bring together researchers in the interest of the wellbeing of children as well as equipping volunteers and social workers with the needed skills to apply to stressful situations especially when children are involved.

The conference will mainly focus on the effects Covid-19 has had on the wellbeing of the youth. The rising issue of violence against children will be another topic of discussion.

The most important aim remains equipping everyone with the necessary skills to assist children in any way necessary for them to maintain a healthy emotional life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, adults are diagnosed with mental disorders. During the stage of adolescents and the teenage years of people, symptoms are already surfacing without proper treatment these symptoms will increasingly lead to an unhealthy adult in terms of their mental health.

The Clearing House journal (2011) has released signs and symptoms adults should look out for when dealing with adolescents to pick up symptoms of depression easier.

- Depressed mood nearly every day (feelings of sadness and emptiness). Some adolescents and children will display signs of irritability.

- Children that lose interest in things that previously were a source of pleasure and happiness.

- The physical appearance of children, like significant weight gain or significant weight loss, can be a clear indication at times as well.

- Loss of energy and constant fatigue.

- The ability to concentrate and think decreases.

- Thoughts of dying that are recurring, thoughts of suicide without a clear plan or a plan in place, as well as attempts to suicide.

Teachers should be aware that these symptoms will not appear at once and will be at times difficult to distinguish. Knowing and trying to understand children will go a long way in recognising and identifying depressing behaviours in children.

A hopeful, healthy and happy learning toolkit – Guide for Teachers

(The following excerpt is retrieved from:

Teaching Children to Calm Down

Aim: To develop a range of ways to calm down

Materials: Board, flipchart / paper and pens

Note to teachers:

This exercise encourages students to find ways to calm themselves when they are upset. Be sure that they include physical, social and cognitive techniques.

Begin by explaining to the students that this a quiet calming exercise that will be done in silence.

Invite the students to start by noticing how they are doing now. Then ask them to look around the classroom and really look at everything there, for example, the desks, walls, the board or the colours of the clothes they or others are wearing. Ask them to notice three different things in class.

Next, ask them to listen for sounds, taking time to identify exactly what sounds they are hearing. Ask them to notice three different sounds in their surroundings.

Finally, ask them to notice three concrete things they can feel with their bodies where they are in contact with the outside world. This could be where their arms are resting on the desk, or if they are holding a pen, or touching a piece of paper or a keyboard, or noticing that their feet are on the ground or their hair is touching their face. Take a minute or two to bring the quiet time to an end and say they will now reflect on what they have just done.

Ask what this short exercise made them feel like. Did they notice any change in themselves from before they began the exercise?

Ask if anyone has ever been upset about being told to calm down. Invite a couple of students to share stories of being told to calm down.

Did it help? Did they know what they could do to calm down? Explain that everyone will experience being upset from time to time and knowing what to do to calm down is very important.

Invite students to suggest good ways of calming down. Ask students to create their own personal list of ideas or create a list with the class of what can be done to calm down. Be sure that students include the following techniques:

* Think about something else.

* Use the STOP technique.

* Count to ten.

* Count down backwards from 1000 by subtracting seven or 17 and carry on counting down.

* Write about what happened that got you upset and what can be done.

* Take a couple of deep breaths.

* Move away from the upsetting situation.

* Take time out.

* Go for a walk with a friend.

* Listen to music and dance.

*Ask a friend to help you calm down by holding your hand.

Mention these ideas too, if the class does not refer to them:

* Note things in the environment and name concrete things you can see, hear or touch.

* Put an ice cube in your mouth – if available.

* Bite on a chilli – but this is not advisable for younger students.

* Use techniques as described in the introductory chapter:

- Chewing gum exercise

- Hold yourself exercise

- Grounding


The STOP technique can help send worrying thoughts away for a time and give a much needed break from constant thinking about a worry. When someone is distressed, they often experience disturbing thoughts that won’t leave the person in peace. The STOP technique gives the person a break, so the thoughts are quietened and sent away for a period of time. This helps the student to change their focus from negative thoughts or negative self-talk to positive self-talk.


1. When you become aware of a disturbing thought, say STOP either aloud or in silence.

2. If you are still thinking the same way, say STOP again. You will probably have to repeat this quite a few times at first, with increasing intervals.

3. Imagine a traffic STOP sign when you say STOP to the thought, if this is helpful.



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