ACHIEVE Undertakes Pioneering Project to Address Mental Health Issues of Women Migrant Domestic Workers

In September 2009, ACHIEVE began implementation of a project entitled, “Developing Interventions to Address Stress and Mental Health Problems among Women Migrant Workers”. Supported by a grant from the Joint Migration and Development Initiatives (JMDI) of the European Commission and the United Nations (EC-UN), ACHIEVE is undertaking this project, in partnership with the Vrije Universiteit-Metamedica/Health Care and Culture (VUMC-MHCC) from the Netherlands.
The project has three components, namely: i) conduct of a survey on “Structural and Individual Determinants of Stress and Mental Health Problems of Women Migrant Domestic Workers”; ii) development of a package of interventions to address mental health and promote the well-being of women migrant domestic workers; and iii) conduct of a training course on psychological first aid to frontline personnel from government and non-government agencies working with women migrant domestic workers.
The Survey
Prof. Ma. Theresa Ujano-Batangan, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the research, presented the results of the survey in a two-day workshop on July 2010. A total of 500 domestic workers from the National Capital Region, La Union, Cebu City and Davao City participated in the survey. In her presentation, Dr. Batangan gave emphasis on the rigorous process and training that the local research teams underwent. Her presentation identified the problems and issues faced by domestic workers, their sources of stress and how they coped/dealt with it, and the manifestations of stress in all phases of migration.
The data showed that money, nature of work, personal safety, need for financial security and employers are the top five causes of stress among women migrant domestic workers. Stress, based on the responses of research participants, may manifest physically (fatigue, frequent headache, inability to sleep, etc.) and/or emotionally (loneliness, feeling sad, nervousness, etc.). In order to cope with stress while overseas, the migrant domestic workers turned to religion (praying, reading the bible, etc.), vented their emotions by crying, or sought social support by talking to a friend, their children and husband.
The full research will be launched in the January 2011.
The Package of Interventions
ACHIEVE), Inc. in partnership with the VUMC-MHCC held a national consultation- workshop on Developing a Package of Interventions to Promote the Mental Well-being of Women Migrant Domestic Workers on July 28 and 29, 2010.
The consultation-workshop was organized to present the initial findings of the survey; identify critical issues facing migrant domestic workers and generate inputs and recommendations on the content of the package of interventions that will be developed for frontline service providers.
Counselling, crisis intervention and conduct of debriefing sessions with migrant domestic workers in all phases of migration were some of the recommendations that emerged from the workshop. The participants were also asked to give inputs on the possible design and content of the training module for service providers in handling cases of distressed women migrant domestic workers.
Prof. Ivan Wolffers of the VUMC-MHCC, gave an input on health as a universal human right. He emphasized that interventions must be appropriate, accessible, equitable and culturally sensitive, and should be carried out in the different stages of migration. Ms. Hilda Tidalgo of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also made a presentation on the ILO’s Decent Work Framework.
A total of 23 representatives attended the consultation. Government agencies such as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Department of Health (DOH), National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) and PhilHealth from the national office and regional offices I, VII and XI actively participated. Civil society organizations such as the Center for Overseas Worker-Davao,  Natasha Goulbourn Foundation, UGAT Foundation, Kanlungan, Women in Development Foundation, ATIKHA and the International Organization on Migration (IOM) also attended the workshop.
The package is envisaged to be completed by November 2010.