On Saturday, January 27, the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Initiative (CAMHI) invited the local community of Ioannina city in northwestern Greece, to a presentation and open discussion on its vision and ongoing work in the region. The event was hosted by the local CAMHI Hub, part of the country-wide CAMHI Network on Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and was attended by more than 250 people, including educators, mental health professionals, parents, and members of the public who joined to learn more about the work of CAMHI and discuss the challenges they face in accessing mental health care for children and adolescents.
The discussion was coordinated by CAMHI Co-Director and Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr. Anastasia Koumoula, while Prof. Thomas Yfantis, Director of the Psychiatric Clinic at the University General Hospital of Ioannina (PAGNI) gave opening remarks noting CAMHI’s significant contribution in enhancing the provision of mental health services to children and families across Epirus, working side-by-side with local providers of mental health services. The head of CAMHI’s Ioannina Hub, Prof. Konstantinos Kotsis, Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Ioannina, and Head of the Community Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health at PAGNI presented the work of the CAMHI, focusing on its values, ongoing work and current activities in the region. Prof. Kotsis emphasized the program’s focus on evidence-based and measurable interventions, and noted the importance of listening to the needs of the local community, as well as the voices of children and adolescents themselves when designing such interventions.
Andromachi Mitropoulou and Alexandra Tzotzi, psychologists, trainers, and members of the local CAMHI hub, discussed in depth the training component of the Initiative focusing on the CAMHI Training Programs on Mental Health Literacy for Educators, and Advanced Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Mental Health Professionals. The two professionals provided an overview of the training courses which are currently piloted across the country, highlighting the targeted focus of the team on adapting all material to the needs of each professional category and local context. The intervention of Andromachi Papaefstathiou, a high-school teacher who has already participated as a trainee in the CAMHI training programs was valuable; she shared her experience and noted the importance of educators having access to proper tools, resources, and support to fulfill their role and ensure a safe and beneficial environment for children within the school context.
The youth engagement component of the CAMHI was also discussed as an integral part of all programmatic activities in Epirus; George Moschos, Coordinator of CAMHI’s Youth Engagement Scheme (YES) presented the work that is being done at the local level, with the aim of providing a safe platform to systematically listen to the perspective and ideas of local youth and work towards incorporating them in all programmatic aspects. Discussing the importance that is being given to ensure representativity and inclusivity within the youth groups, Mr. Moschos explained that the YES team in Ioannina meets on a monthly basis to discuss and exchange their ideas and views, while this year the group has welcomed in its realms teens residing outside the city of Ioannina or in residential care settings.
The event concluded with an open discussion with the audience and a dinner reception.
The Child & Adolescent Mental Health Initiative (CAMHI) is a five-year program with a mission to enhance the work of mental health care providers, increase access to quality care, and ultimately improve mental health outcomes for young people across Greece. The program is part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Global Health Initiative (GHI) and is implemented in collaboration with the Child Mind Institute (CMI) and a country-wide Network of institutions and professionals on the front line of Greece’s public health system, with the support of the Hellenic Ministry of Health.
An integral component of CAMHI is its Youth Engagement Scheme (YES), a country-wide effort to ensure that children and adolescents are actively involved in shaping the program’s direction and that they are enabled to voice their views and perspective on the care and services they receive in a systematic, safe, and meaningful way. For the previous school year (2022-2023), the four YES groups in Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina and Alexandroupolis focused their discussions on the subject of stress and the different ways it affects their everyday life. With guidance from filmmaker Anastasis Mavroyiannis, members of the youth groups worked together to write the scenarios and produce four short films on how stress is experienced by adolescents.