11/8/23 · Education

A project to create safe spaces and prevent domestic and online violence for children and adolescents

The Cornellà Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health of the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital - Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute, in partnership with the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Cornellà de Llobregat City Council and the Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital in Rome are carrying out the RESCCUE project (REcover Spaces for traumatized Children in CommUnity sEttings post COVID-19), an initiative to prevent violence and enhance emotional well-being

Young people from the city of Cornellà de Llobregat are actively involved in co-designing materials to meet their needs

The initial pilot phase will take place in secondary schools in Cornellà de Llobregat during the 2023/2024 school year, and all the pupils at the schools will be actively involved, as well as their teachers and families
class young people debate

The image shows one of the first co-creation sessions organized with young people. (Photo: Proyecto Resccue)

During the pandemic, when schools were closed and social leisure spaces were limited, children and adolescents were among the most seriously affected groups as they experienced increased anxiety, mental health problems and greater exposure to domestic and online violence.

According to the statistics (The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, 2019), the risk of suffering from or witnessing violence increased by 30% in this group during the COVID-19 pandemic, as did their exposure to abusive messages. With this data in mind, a team at the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital saw the need to create and regain safe community spaces for children and young people in order to prevent violence.

The RESCCUE: REcover Spaces for traumatized Children in CommUnity sEttings post COVID-19 project, which is funded by the European Commission, aims to regain safe spaces in order to prevent and detect violence against children and adolescents. The project seeks to involve the young people themselves, as well as the education sector, the primary healthcare system and the mental health system.

"We want to empower young people and children in order to reduce their exposure to situations of violence, while at the same time providing education professionals and families with tools to prevent this violence and support victims," said Mar Alvarez, a psychiatrist at the Cornellà Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health of the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital.

Teenagers from the city of Cornellà are participating in the first phase

The participants in the project include Cornellà de Llobregat City Council, through its Department of Equality Policies, which has helped actively involve a group of young people from Joan Miró secondary school and Riera Centre and Sant Ildefons young people's spaces in co-designing the materials for the project. "It was very important to validate the activities and materials with young people, because we always design the projects that are intended for them from the perspective of adults, and then we find that the message doesn't reach them," explained the Deputy Mayor for Social Policies, Equality and Health of Cornellà City Council, Joana Piñero.

"During the sessions, the young people became aware of how they use their mobile phones, what cyberviolence is and how they can prevent and report it," explained Teresa Romeu, a researcher with the Edul@b research group in the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences at the UOC. "We worked on images of cyberviolence, shared examples they knew about, and identified the roles involved," she added. 

A series of innovative educational resources have been designed to promote peer learning as a result of the co-creation sessions.

"Based on all the information, we decided to design a board game as an effective strategy for raising awareness among teenagers. After talking to the young people, we ruled out producing an app, precisely because it would mean spending more time looking at a screen," said UOC faculty member and Edul@b principal investigator Montse Guitert. The game is now in the design phase, and the aim is to provide it in open access so that schools can download it, print it and use it in their classrooms in the future.

A project involving students, the educational community and families

The first pilot phase will be carried out in secondary schools in Cornellà de Llobregat during the 2023/2024 school year, and all the pupils at the schools will be actively involved. Workshops for professionals in the education community will also be provided, which will focus on self-care and building bridges with adolescents to create safe spaces.

Sessions with families who are experiencing situations of domestic violence or cyberbullying will be an integral part of the project. These spaces will focus on family dynamics, providing support and tools to deal with these complex situations, and ensuring a safe environment for adolescents and young people. The transfer of the methodology will be measured with a pilot test in Rome carried out by the team at the Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital.

All the materials generated by the RESCCUE project will be available on the website (https://www.project-resccue.eu/) for use by all interested schools and institutions. The goal is to provide valuable and accessible resources for well-being and the prevention of violence among adolescents.

The project is being led by the Cornellà Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health of the Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital - Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute, a CERCA centre, in partnership with the Department of Equality Policies of Cornellà City Council, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and the Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital in Rome.

The emotional well-being of adolescents at school

RESCCUE came about as a result of the urgent need to address mental health and emotional well-being among children and adolescents. Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona Children's Hospital is also working with the Z Zurich Foundation, Solidaritat Sant Joan de Déu and SOM Salud Mental 360º on the Spain-wide Henka programme aimed at fostering emotional well-being among adolescents and young people. This programme contains measures that strengthen resilience, and aims to prevent the onset of mental health problems among people between 12 and 25 years old and the people around them: in their schools, their families and society. It works through two direct action programmes: one with schools, providing prevention training for mental health in the educational community, in order to improve the identification and management of emotional distress; and the other in the broader field of public awareness. Like RESCCUE, Henka aims to address the current pressing needs in this area.

This research project contributes to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 (Good Health and Well-being), and 4 (Quality Education).

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