A member of our Thai staff, Lux, recently conducted a half-day training on depression for students at the Pong Phrae Resource Center. She opened by showing pictures of famous people worldwide who have had depression, shared about her personal experience of her friend having depression, and discussed how her friend received help by talking about their condition and getting the support they needed. She went on to explain the symptoms of depression, and finished with asking the students to make posters about the depressive disorder in children to help analyze the symptoms.
In a country where knowledge of mental health issues is minimal, these trainings go straight to the heart of vulnerability to trafficking. Traffickers prey on children who come from abusive homes, who have tenuous ties to family and community, and who have a low sense of self worth. Trainings on depression might seem to be a sideline, but their benefits work on many levels.
To Be Understood and Not Alone
Children who come from broken homes don’t always realize how abnormal their situation is. They suffer, and they know they are suffering, but they don’t always know they can get help. Because a life of poverty, neglect, or abuse can lead to depression, these children are prone to it. Trainings like this show them there can be another way, they don’t have to suffer alone, and they can get help.
By tackling these problems head on, and showing children where there are safe places to get help, trainings like the one Lux delivered help strengthen the bonds between the children and the community around them. Less alienated, less isolated, they can build their resilience by developing relationships of trust with the safe and caring adults in their lives. Sometimes all it takes is just one person to take an interest and care.
Not only do the children learn how to recognize potential signs of depression in themselves, they can now learn how to spot it in friends, and become key advocates for friends at risk. Children know how to hide things from adults. A watchful friend may be best poised to notice sudden changes in behavior or other warning signs and encourage their friend to get help, or to get the help of a trusted adult.
They say prevention the best medicine. There is no better prevention than strong, healthy, knowledgeable, and vibrant communities–built one child, one family at a time.
Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The Freedom Story (formerly The SOLD Project). After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand in 2010 to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness. She currently writes from Berlin.