Mental health is a dimension of individual and collective well-being that becomes fragile during moments of crisis. Preserving it is a priority in service of the overall health of individuals and, consequently, society.
Andrea Dughera, psychologist and psychotherapist, presides over Parole in Movimento ETS. The association, founded in 2006 by Dr. Marco Gonella, consists of a group of psychologists, psychotherapists, and health professionals who implement projects for psychological support, psychological listening, and psychotherapy for individuals facing moments of crisis in their lives. «We carry out free or low-cost support projects for the population so that even economically disadvantaged individuals can access them and are not forced to endure their crisis in solitude,» states Dughera.
The causes of a crisis are diverse, ranging from painful events to illnesses, bereavements, and traumas. However, they are often linked to life’s developmental stages, and knowing that one is not alone significantly influences how people face a period of difficulty. «Research teaches us that experiencing a crisis alone, without support, risks compromising psychological, physical health, and even the recovery from that crisis,» asserts Dughera. Around fragile family units, it is important to establish a support network capable of assisting those alongside individuals facing difficulties.
Protecting Fragile Families in Support of Mental Health
In 2002, Fondazione Faro initiated the project ‘Protezione Famiglie Fragili’. «From the beginning, it aims to activate support actions for families with a member affected by oncological pathology but also facing other conditions of fragility, – continues the psychologist. – Originally, the primary condition of vulnerability was the presence of children or adolescents, and gradually, other conditions of fragility were considered. From 2022, it is a mandatory project for all healthcare companies in Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta.» Many conditions of fragility can make it more challenging to face an already critical experience, such as oncological illness. Among these, psychological fragility can worsen the perception of pain and the side effects of anticancer therapies. It may even have negative repercussions on the immune system’s response.
The project «involves the formation of a team within each healthcare company composed of a psychologist, oncologist, nurse, and social worker. This team collectively assesses the presence and nature of any psychosocial fragilities affecting the patient and their family,» explains Dughera. The resources needed to meet the needs of families come from annual funding provided by the rete oncologica «Private psychotherapeutic paths can be very costly, hindering indigent individuals. The hospital case manager, in agreement with the entity, initiates a psychotherapy path paid for by the ‘Protezione Famiglie Fragili’ project fund,» Dughera continues.
Safeguarding Mental Health: Results and Hopes
The prompt activation of psychosocial interventions is crucial, especially in terminal oncological pathologies. «Third-sector entities collaborate closely with local healthcare companies and hospitals, in our case with the ASL Città di Torino and the simple structure of corporate psychology led by Dr. Monica Agnesone, along with all the micro-teams in hospitals that take care of patients and families by supporting the family,» says Dughera.
Attention is directed especially towards children to allow them to experience their childhood protected. «Parole in Movimento, in addition to handling project management tasks, fundraising, and activation management through a team of psychotherapists experienced in developmental age, oversees psychotherapies for children,» the psychologist affirms.
The project has been successful even during the pandemic years, when most attention and resources were focused on Covid-19, risking sidelining the management of mental health. As Dughera explains, «the number of families has increased even in the years of Covid. On ASL Città di Torino, 41 families in 2019, 40 in 2020, 56 in 2021, 59 in 2022. So there is an increase in families every year.»
Work spans four hospitals: «Amedeo di Savoia, Maria Vittoria, Giovanni Bosco, and Martini. Our goal is to expand the audience of beneficiaries and carry out more fundraising to complement the contributions we receive from the oncology network, expanding it through charity events, meetings, and encouraging donations,» concludes Andrea Dughera.