PROWELL, Protecting Children’s Mental Well-being during and after Public Health Emergencies
Research findings from the ProWell project reveal that teachers in the EU are not adequately trained to support children’s mental health during public health emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Teachers report that they need mental health training programmes that help them to: identify mental health symptoms in children, recognise signs of abuse, recognise common mental health problems during emergencies (such as anxiety and depression), learn how to develop communication skills with both children and parents, receive practical guidance on how to support children and adolescents in emergencies, and promote their well-being using digital tools.
The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed a paradigm shift on digital education in schools. National closures and social distancing rules meant that teachers and students had to adapt quickly to distance teaching and learning methods. Teachers were called upon to incorporate digital teaching methods into their work without adequate training and support. This public health emergency situation was associated with additional challenges for teachers, such as coping with the deterioration of children’s and adolescents’ mental health that students often suffer in public health crises.
The ProWell project aims to support this rapid change by developing digital educational tools to build competencies and provide the necessary knowledge to teachers and other educators who are primarily involved with children and adolescents, e.g. sports coaches, recreational group leaders (dance teachers, etc.), to better support children during and after adverse public health emergencies. This knowledge will be delivered through an innovative pedagogical approach and will focus on children’s mental health, well-being and competence development. Overall, the training developed within the ProWell project will educate teachers on how to recognise mental health problems and promote students’ wellbeing, as well as support their own mental health (e.g. avoid burnout) when disruption of social structures becomes an everyday practice.
The ProWell project is a two-year programme (01/03/2021 – 28/02/2023), funded by the European Union’s ERASMUS+ Programme, designed to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s well-being. The project consortium is composed of 7 partners dedicated to supporting the mindset of children and adolescents during crises: Technische Universitaet Dresden, Germany (project coordinator), Prolepsis Institute (Greece), Center for Social Innovation (Cyprus), Osengo (France), Institut Drustvenih Znanosti Ivo Pilar (Croatia), Associazione Tages Onlus, (Italy) and University of Valencia Polibienestar (Spain).
In the first 10 months of project implementation (01.03.2021 – 31.10.2021), the consortium achieved (i) a mapping of existing training opportunities for teachers, (ii) a country-specific literature review and (iii) focus groups with teachers and other educators in all partner countries to identify their mental health education needs. Although the mapping revealed 174 mental health training programmes implemented in Europe, teachers reported that they are not sufficiently trained to support children and adolescents during public health emergencies. The results of 14 focus groups that the project conducted with teachers and other educators in 7 countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Greece and Cyprus) showed that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant mental health problems among students and that teachers need specialised training to recognise at-risk students, learn how best to support them and understand when to refer them to specialised services.
Completing this milestone is an important achievement for the consortium as it will guide the next steps and help us to complete the project objectives. The ProWell project will develop innovative training tailored to the needs of teachers that will be publicly available and will help them increase their knowledge, skills and competences in promoting students’ mental health during public health emergencies.
For more information, visit the ProWell website at https://prowell-project.com or follow the ProWell Facebook page at facebook.com/ProWell.