The Importance of MAP at Home during COVID: A conversation with MAP Trainers
The Social and Psychological Need of MAP at Home
Eric, a MAP youth trainer, begins our conversation:
COVID-19 has made people move into their comfort zone. That means that they have had a lot of time to think about themselves. And that has brought about many problems because they recall what happened in the genocide against Tutsis. And we can call that trauma.
Eric’s opening statement highlights a common theme of the Covid-19 pandemic, the ability for the pandemic to exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and issues. In relation to mental health, Rwanda exceeds all regional averages with 29% of the general population having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 15% receiving a diagnosis of depression (Bolton, et al, 2002; Palmer and Firmin, 2011). It has been proven that trauma experienced by parents during the genocide can be transmitted to children who were not living during the genocide period, giving rise to a range of mental health issues in young people (Shrira, Mollov, & Mudahogora, 2019). With a backdrop of widespread mental health issues and transgenerational trauma, Eric’s observation is extremely relevant. The lockdown restrictions on social relationships and activities that alleviate mental health issues and provide positive engagement have, inevitably, exacerbated underlying and existing mental health issues. As Esther stated: ‘In the home, they don’t have ways to express their feelings. They are keeping quiet’.
The Possibilities of MAP at Home
The MAP methodology offers the possibility to fracture the existing detachment that young people are experiencing and to provide a space for expression. Another MAP youth trainer, Sandrine, extends Esther’s argument by stating that MAP at Home has the opportunity to reach more young people than traditional face-to-face workshops. Sandrine continues by stating that ‘young people are very conversant with social media’ which enables widespread communication and the advancement of digital arts-based work. The intention of reducing isolation is a starting point for developing new ways of communicating with young people that do not conform to face-to-face working. As it has often been said during the pandemic, ‘such crises can also be an opportunity to rethink and reinvent’. But, such reinvention is not without challenges. Eric and Fred expressed potential challenges of adapting participatory MAP exercises to online formats, unpredictable internet connections and the interruption of face-to-face training due to new government restrictions.
Whilst keeping account of the challenges, our conversation was not rooted in identifying problems but envisaging successes. From a training perspective, Esther stated:
We will get more skills, it is about how to work with people concerning family or mental health problems. And I think, also, we get skills about how to use social media to facilitate working with young people.
MAP at Home and MAP Network Plus specialise in a train the trainer model to evade issues of paternalism and to promote dialogical practices. Esther identifies the initial potential success of MAP at Home as the continued development of highly skilled facilitators who can provide high quality arts-based workshops whilst also understanding key psychosocial approaches. During our conversation, it was evident that identifying social needs is only part of MAP at Home. The other significant part is the need to develop high quality arts provision and psychosocial support to provide effective interventions for young people. The training of MAP trainers has been taking place in November and December 2020 with Co-Investigator (Co-Is) Chaste Uwihoreye from partnering organisations Uyisenga Ni Imanzi and Sylvestre Nzahabwanayo from University of Rwanda. As Eric stated, the importance of MAP at Home is to break a culture of isolation and negative reflection that has developed due to the pandemic, such a process is fragile and requires expertise. A highly trained and specialised group of MAP facilitators will be the success of MAP at Home and can evidence legacy. This is another reason for MAP at Home’s importance to address the effects of Covid-19. This is a sentiment that Esther, Fred, Eric and Sandrine repeatedly mentioned during our conversation.
The Country Also Rises
At the time of writing, Covid-19 cases have been slowly rising in Rwanda and new lockdown measures were implemented in December 2020. The relentless nature of the virus and its ability to have major effects on macro and micro aspects of daily life only places greater emphasis on Eric’s opening statement. The longer that countries spend in lockdown, the bigger need for mental health intervention. Especially in the Rwandan context, where there are a multitude of underlying mental health vulnerabilities. The agreed starting point for the MAP central team, Co-Is and MAP trainers is the need for high quality arts-based intervention to break a cycle of isolation that is not only damaging for individual young people, but for Rwandan society as a whole. As Eric poetically expressed at the end of our conversation:
So if we do it and it is successful, I think we are helping not only the young people but the country also. Because when the people in the country are healed, the country also rises.
The intended MAP at Home activities to address some of these varied needs and ambitions include monthly online workshops, an online curriculum, links between MAP participants and psychosocial workers and the development of a local and community-based approach to mental health and wellbeing in partnership with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre and the National Rehabilitation Services. Other partners not mentioned in this blog include the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), Rwanda Arts Council and UNESCO.
Note: This conversation was conducted by Zoom on Tuesday 15th December 2020 by MAP at Home postdoctoral research associate Matthew Elliott with MAP youth and adult trainers
Bolton, P., et al (2002) Prevalence of depression in rural Rwanda based on symptom and functional criteria. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease; 190: 9, 631-637.
Palmer, I., Firmin, N., (2011) Mental health in post-genocide Rwanda. International Psychiatry; 8: 4, 86-87.
Shrira, A., Mollov, B., & Mudahogora, C. (2019). Complex PTSD and intergenerational transmission of distress and resilience among Tutsi genocide survivors and their offspring: A preliminary report. Psychiatry Research, 271, 121–123.
Cultural Artist Network
Ubwuzu enabled the creation of a Cultural Artist Network and Youth Advisory Board to inform the design, delivery and implementation of MAP.
MAP is made possible thanks to the support and funding of the following partners