MyChild Helpline App
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Mobile Application
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic several governments have introduced severe mitigating measures to flatten the curve and reduce the number of cases within the country. These measures included restrictions and lockdown which heightened the need to adopt flexible approaches through remote technologies. In 2020, several governments within the Eastern Caribbean introduced measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 resulting in national closures of educational institutions and suspension of some face-to-face social services. This interruption continues to be one of the most significant stressors on children and families. When this is combined with the distress of worrying about getting sick or having loved ones become ill or die, noticing their parents’ concerns over potentially losing jobs, and increased tensions within households, it can lead to feelings of helplessness and increased vulnerability to poor mental health for children. Adolescents also have unique needs during COVID-19 due to missing out on education and extra-curricular activities, social events, loss of autonomy and missing direct interaction with their peer groups. This has resulted in increased feelings of anxiety, frustration, anger, difficulty concentrating on home schooling, depression, isolation, and self-harm.
Physical restrictions also mean limited access to psychosocial services normally provided through in-person support in schools, communities, and government agencies, especially for migrant children who already have limited access. While online school has resumed for many, more focus has been placed on attaining educational milestones and very little has been placed on children’s and families’ mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.
Leveraging the increased reliance and use of technology, in 2020, UNICEF partnered with ChildLine Trinidad and Tobago to develop the ‘My ChildLine App’ - a mobile application which provides direct access to mental health and psychosocial support. It provides children with an array of child-friendly resources conveniently available in the palm of their hands. Available in En/Es/Fr, the app connects its users to child protection support services, including direct access to national toll-free hotlines, developmentally appropriate resources and interactive activities. With the online chat feature, children have quick and easy access to direct psychosocial support, tele-counselling, and information to re-establish a sense of safety. While the full impact and long-term fallout of COVID-19 is still unclear, the mental health and psychosocial impact on the lives of children and adolescents and their families will be significant. Ensuring support for families during the pandemic has heightened the need to adopt approaches through the use of remote technologies for psychosocial support. The app was developed as an innovation in the provision of remote mental health and psychosocial support to children and their families in Trinidad and Tobago, launched in October 2020, and is currently accessible to children and caregivers including migrant children.
In 2021, UNICEF Office for the Eastern Caribbean Area (ECA) scaled up the MyChildLine app, now called “MyChild Helpline app” to cover four (4) additional countries out of the twelve (12) countries and overseas territories covered under the office’s Multi-Country Programme. The app is now available in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Grenada.
- National toll-free helpline numbers in their specific country
- Access live chat features and tele-counselling services
- Child-friendly avatars for selection by users
- Use location aware search for child related services in country
- Mood tracker
- Password protected diary
- Access information in English, Spanish, Dutch and French
- View information of children’s rights
- Interactive games
Long term Goals
The long-term goal is that all children and caregivers across 12 countries and territories in the Eastern Caribbean will have access to mental health and psychosocial support through the app. By expanding across countries, the app addresses gaps identified in lower resourced countries while maximizing those systems already in place in countries with more capacities. Simultaneously UNICEF will continue to support the strengthening of MHPSS services across countries to be able to effectively and efficiently respond to the growing needs and demand for this essential service.