Child mental health has also been identified as a priority within the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (WHO EMRO). Following consultations with international and regional experts and stakeholders, WHO EMRO developed an evidence-based manualized School Mental Health Program (SMHP), endorsed by member countries, including Pakistan. WHO SMHP is informed by evidence-based strategies based on behavioural and socio-emotional learning theories6. The evidence on the effectiveness of SMHP in Pakistan supports the administration of this model to train teachers how to promote child mental health in school settings6, 7.
Another goal of the WHO SMHP innovation is to support institutions, researchers, policy-makers, and community stakeholders in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to address child mental health in their respective countries sites in Egypt, Jordan and Iran.
The School Health Implementation Network in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (SHINE) is comprised of multilateral, national and international policy organizations and partners from Pakistan, Jordan, Iran and Egypt, with technical support from universities in the United Kingdom and United States. SHINE will work alongside other global networks working to tackle priority mental health issues in different regions of the world with the following aims:
- Inform strategies for scaling-up mental health programmes to regional/national levels through the knowledge sharing and best-practice
- Embed collaborative learning within the EMRO Framework for regional implementation of the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan with a prioritized a focus on child mental health
- Support the technical expertise of researchers from Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Iran in evaluating the implementation of the SMHP and of effectively engaging with and communicating findings to policy-makers, and to support their application to the development of evidence-based policy
The technological innovation component within WHO’s School Mental Health Program (SMHP) includes the adaptation and enhancement of the SMHP manual. The program will:
- Include the implementation of an enhanced and more operationalized SMHP manual using the online training platform
- An algorithm based Chat-bot that acts as an aid memoire (to aid memory) to support teachers in identifying and managing the low-intensity mental health problems of students in their class
- The eSMHP will also enable teachers to identify and refer children in need of additional support to specialists
In addition to the phased implementation of WHO SMHP occurring in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Iran, the WHO SMHP is also being evaluated at the Pakistani site to generate the evidence for its effectiveness. Stakeholders from the education section, including teachers, parents and children aged 8-13 years, will participate in a cluster randomized control trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the conventional as well as the technology-assisted model of delivering SMHP. The intervention will be implemented through a task-shifting approach, whereby mental health care to the children will be provided by non-specialist teachers in the public schools of rural sub-district of Gujar Khan, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.