‘We firmly believe that psychological care is as important as physical care’

‘We firmly believe that psychological care is as important as physical care’
October 29, 2019 Adeline Ong

Solemen Indonesia aims to take care of children and adults by managing and funding operations and ensuring their recovery runs smoothly afterwards. More than eighty procent of the SoleBuddies are children. One very important side of Solemen’s support is the love and affection they give to their young SoleBuddies.

‘We firmly believe that psychological care is as important as physical care,’ tells Sarah Chapman, Head of Solemen’s Outreach team and a UK qualified nurse with 28-years working experience.

Sarah Chapman

According to research, physical contact and affection is very important for a child’s development. Physical contact is a basic need for everybody, but in particular for children. Research shows that a crying baby produces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. To calm down, it needs oxytocin, the love and attachment hormone, that is released through physical contact. If a baby does not get that comforting contact, the level of cortisol may remain high. When a parent reacts lovingly to their crying baby, the parasympathetic nervous system of the baby is activated, the part of the nervous system that provides peace and emotional balance. It also puts a gene to work that increases the child’s stress resistance. This is thanks to BDNF, a protein that is released. The protein BDNF is released extra during skin-to-skin contact.

Solemen understands how important it is as a charity to not only give children the practical, financial and emotional support they require, but to also give them warmth and love. They do this by playing with the children, giving them a hug when they want and need and make sure that they are loved for who they are.

Children in Bali are usually treated warmly by their families, but because the Solebuddies are a little bit different, many parents don’t know what to do with them or how to care for them. They often believe that it is a matter of black magic or karma that has cursed their child with a physical disability or illness. ‘‘They regularly say ‘It is black magic that is affecting my child’. They sort of accept it but they often think that their child was a bad person in their previous life. They believe that their condition now is their karma and they will pay their debt to karma. It is really difficult to react to these situations but I always smile and say, ok let’s try this and let’s see if we can change things a little bit to improve it. Then it will be easier for you,’’ tells Sarah.

Solemen takes care of these children by giving them the love and attention they need. ‘‘Love, hugs and affection is absolutely vital and totally important. I usually follow the kids lead, I would never go and pick up a kid randomly because they will be terrified. For them to trust me, they have to be able to relate on me and feel that warmth. I don’t want to be this Westerner that is coming in with a formal attitude. It is also very important to play and interact with them.’’ tells Sarah.

The interaction with the children is not just to give them love and to make them feel safe but it is also important for the assessment and diagnosis as well. The interaction and hugging makes it possible for Sarah to read the children. ‘‘For example I can pick up things like autism easily. I can spot some of the signs by picking a kid up because an autistic kid does not like to be touched. One of the signs of autism is they don’t like any contact. They don’t like to look at people. It gives me an idea of the mental condition of the child.’’

Another reason Sarah finds psychological care as important as physical care, is because it is really difficult to get a scared child to the hospital. Mental health definitely affects the physical recovery of the children. The better the psychological care, the easier the physical recovery goes. Sarah finds it important for doctors to take five minutes extra to bond with a child instead of rushing, and believes this will speed up the recovery process. Solemen’s goal is for all children to recover with a lot of love, hope and new beginnings.

Written by Roselyn van den Berg

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