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COUNSELLING PROGRAM FOR VIEWERS’ TRAUMA

1 November 2017

In response to the suffering caused by chaotic conditions in the Middle East, a SAT-7 counselling and parenting program will reach out to viewers impacted by trauma. The upcoming season of With Smyrna will air on the new educational channel SAT-7 ACADEMY, launched on 1 September.

The turmoil and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are causing many more people to struggle with mental health problems. The Presenter of With Smyrna, experienced counselling psychologist Smyrna Khalaf, said:
“I see a lot of anxiety; it is the most common problem in the region, followed by depression. People who struggle with depression often also have anxiety issues. I see anxiety affecting people from different countries, in the region – anyone who feels unsettled and unsure about their future.”

A LIFELINE FOR PARENTS
The show’s three-minute episodes explain to viewers what trauma is, how its impact is revealed, and how practical coping strategies can help. Parents become aware of the clues that show their children are struggling, how the impact of trauma varies according to age, and how they can help their children move forward.

In order to help parents support their children, With Smyrna also focuses on establishing healthy parent-child relationships. In some cases, this means rethinking authoritarian behaviours that are still prevalent in the MENA.

Smyrna encourages parents to accept and value their sons and daughters for who they are and to establish open communication, so that children can share their struggles and fears. While she acknowledges that children should respect their parents, Smyrna teaches that this goes both ways and that children should be encouraged to think for themselves in a supportive environment.

PLANTING SEEDS OF AWARENESS
In her own practice, Smyrna provides counselling for clients of all ages and stages. Since viewers of her SAT-7 show have not taken the step to see a counsellor – and many cannot afford or do not have access to counselling – her presenting approach is rather different. She aims to raise awareness about mental health and relationship issues gradually, planting seeds that will eventually blossom into real growth and healing.

“We want to help people reach that moment of awareness when a new idea takes root,” she said. “Their thinking processes will then start to change, and slowly their actions will change – but it will take time. People will not take action the first time they see a new idea on television, but if they keep on seeing it, perhaps watching a whole program several times, eventually it will become normal for them.”

The show’s episodes are short enough to be repeated several times a day, which helps to gradually get the positive messages across.

ENCOURAGING A CULTURAL SHIFT
Attitudes towards people with mental health problems in the MENA are often discriminatory, and as a result many people are reluctant to seek help. But Smyrna has observed that these beliefs are gradually changing, especially amongst younger generations. She hopes that SAT-7 ACADEMY can play a role in this transformation, as the price of allowing traumatised children to go without support is high.

“Children will not stay children forever,” she said. “They will grow up and have families of their own, and the dysfunction can continue from generation to generation. Sometimes children learn from how their parents are acting and take on their parents’ anxieties.”

As part of SAT-7 ACADEMY’s aim to help children become healthy future leaders of the MENA with positive attitudes and values, With Smyrna aims to break the cycles of suffering that could hold them back.