May Zaw Naing, an NGO worker in Yangon, knew that she needed to improve her understanding of mental health and psychology to better serve children in communities affected by conflict. Coursera helped her build relevant clinical skills, which she is now teaching to her colleagues as they work support children through trauma. Here’s her story:
For the past several years, I’ve worked with various NGOs in southeast Asia, visiting villages that are being destroyed by armed and ethnic conflicts. Children in these communities are dealing with unimaginable suffering. Many have been orphaned, emotionally and physically abused, marginalized, and even sold into slavery. They’ve lost their self-esteem, and they cry out loud when they hear the sound of fighter jets flying overhead.
Understandably, these children are often frightened when I and my team approach them to perform medical examinations. At first, with our limited knowledge of mental health care, we just did our best – told stories and sang songs, trying to make the children feel secure and safe.
When I found Coursera, I was able to take part in online courses on clinical psychology, child psychology, and mental health care. I shared materials from the courses I took with my colleagues, and we developed a psychological support approach based on respect for the culture and tradition of children in these ethnic communities. We began using the techniques we learned – like role playing and group discussions – to promote our patients’ integrity and self-respect. And we began to see great results. The children became more confident, and more passionate about engaging in civic activities.
The experience of taking courses on Coursera also changed me. I found myself regaining my own confidence, and gaining new insights as I interacted with learners in my courses from different cultures and backgrounds. I became more self-aware, adept at evaluating my own actions and seizing creative ideas that I hadn’t previously seen. I started participating in new community activities related to mental health – including tutoring undergraduate students and volunteering as a psychological support educator for patients with chronic stress, depression, and anxiety.
My goal with all patients is to boost their well being biologically, psychologically, socially and spiritually – not only to just treat their immediate physical complaints. Thanks to Coursera, I’m better equipped to help children and other people in communities affected by conflict.