Protecting mental well-being of migrant workers in Shwe Pyi Thar TownshipPublished: Dec 16, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
The global pandemic, recession, and political turmoil have impacted the daily lives of the people of Myanmar. To alleviate the suffering of people in Myanmar, Call Me Today, a consortium partner of the Aye Chan Thaw Ein (ACTE) project, has provided psychosocial phone counselling to those most affected: migrant workers in Shwe Pyi Thar township, Yangon region. As part of the project, Call Me Today helped 1,814 individuals via phone counselling between 2020 and 2022, of which 90% were female workers.
Psychosocial counselling is a critical need and helps the health and well-being of individuals to identify their problems and find solutions. To overcome these challenges, Call Me Today has provided phone line networks and local facilitators to reach out to individuals in Shwe Pyi Thar township. Call Me Today's practitioners use different phone operators in Myanmar to connect with individuals, mostly dismissed and migrant workers, to provide a therapeutic relationship and build trust between clients and practitioners.
In 2020, Call Me Today also conducted group counselling sessions at ACTE Worker Centres. In total, 53 group counselling sessions assisted 535 individuals. Thaw Nadi Myint Oo, a project coordinator with Call Me Today, shares their challenges to implementing the phone line counselling, "throughout these three years project, 2022 has been the most challenging for us to provide the psychosocial phone counselling service, because of the safety and security concerns in the region. These conditions deter practitioners from going to the field for clinical sessions and make it hard to build a therapeutic relationship and trust over phone lines. However, we successfully reached our clients' needs by introducing services to partners in Shwe Pyi Thar and via facilitators who conducted group discussions about the services with residents before their sessions, and our practitioners engaged with the clients through phone lines directly after."
Call Me Today's practitioners played a vital role in this contribution as they reached out to each and every individual using phoneline to build therapeutic relationships, provided psychoeducation and psychosocial support, and made referrals to the necessary third-party organisations based on their clients' needs. Solely during 2022, Call Me Today has provided 416 clients with over 501 sessions. 92% of the total beneficiaries are females, and 68% of beneficiaries are migrant workers. Even though the remaining 32% are not migrants, they are blue-collar workers residing in the Shwe Pyi Thar township.
Thaw adds, "in times of crisis, there were migrants in Shwe Pyi Thar township who asked for financial aid as their priority. They believe having financial support can reduce their anxiety. Although it is undeniable that food security and job safety contribute to upholding balanced mental well-being, having stable mental well-being and being able to control mental distress are as crucial as food and job security in solving family-related problems."
Call Me Today believes improving mental well-being and providing necessary psychoeducation can stabilise the beneficiary's state of mind and motivate them to solve their problems themselves in their daily life. People sometimes need a counsellor to encourage their insecurities and to listen to their issues at a foundational level. Call Me Today has provided psychosocial support and psychoeducation to migrants of Shwe Pyi Thar in times of conflict to help their mental state.
Simple coping techniques such as belly breathing exercises, filtering controllable and uncontrollable issues, gratitude practices, psychoeducation on understanding the nature of stress and anxiety, and setting boundaries are provided via telephone during the session as additional coping methods for beneficiaries' future.
The psychosocial support and psychoeducation by Call Me Today show positive results for beneficiaries. Mi Mi* shares her attitudes to Call Me Today and Aye Chan Thaw Ein project, "this counselling session helps me relieve stress and anxiety because of the current situation in the country and financial problems which felt like "a burden on my shoulder". After receiving counselling from Call Me Today and opening up about my problems, I can release tension from my shoulders and feel more relaxed and refreshed."
Daw Shwe Yee* explains, "I own a small business in Shwe Pyi Thar township. I felt depressed because of skyrocketing prices. After receiving a counselling session and the physical exercises, I have a calmer state of mind and gained positive mindfulness and motivation. Also, I practice physical exercises at home and/or shop to relieve my stress as much as possible. Thanks to Call Me Today for providing me psychosocial support and bringing positive vibes to carry on my life with my children."
Call Me Today believes that the beneficiaries will remember and utilise the knowledge and tools related to psychoeducation during the session. Based on this project, beneficiaries are in a better position after their sessions and know how to care for their mental well-being, this work is supported through financial support by the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT). Call Me Today strives to be within reach for everyone in Myanmar via online platforms, phone, and text, and it has been providing counselling and psychosocial support for many years since 2018.
*The names of certain individuals have been changed for their protection.