Tag Archives: Mental Health

Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Needs in Emergencies

This past Saturday marked World Mental Health Day (WMHD) 2015, a day spearheaded by the World Federation for Mental Health to promote dignified, humane treatment of those with mental illness. The day comes only weeks following the UN’s approval of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include a new target to address to mental health needs. In recognition of WMHD 2015, events were hosted around the world to promote this year’s theme of “Dignity in Mental Health. The renewed attention to mental health and psychosocial issues highlights the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are afflicted by mental health problems, yet many still suffer in silence, or are victims of stigma, discrimination and abuse.

From September 20-30, the IIHA, in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), HealthNet TPO, and International Medical Corps (IMC), hosted its 11th annual Mental Health in Complex Emergencies (MHCE) training course to discuss and address some of the challenges of providing mental health and psychosocial care in (post) conflict areas or in complex disaster settings. The course, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, welcomed back Course Directors Larry Hollingworth, C.B.E., Humanitarian Programs Director, CIHC; Lynne Jones, O.B.E. FRCPsych., Ph.D., Visiting Scientist, FXB Center for Health & Human Rights, Harvard University and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Cornwall Partnership Foundation NHS Trust; and Peter Ventevogel, M.D., Senior Mental Health Officer, UNHCR. The Course Directors and Faculty organized a program that effectively balanced academic theory with practical experience, equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed to respond to psychosocial and mental health needs in complex humanitarian emergencies and relief situations. Participants learned the critical importance of understanding the humanitarian context, while gaining practical tools of how to conduct needs assessments, monitor and evaluate projects, and promote security and self-care.

One of the participants of the MHCE course, Caitlin Cockcroft-McKay, Psychosocial Project Coordinator at HealthNet TPO, recently shared with us a personal testimonial of the course:

I feel very privileged to have been a part of the Mental Health in Complex Emergencies training in Ethiopia. It was a fantastically well-organised event, a great networking opportunity & a wonderful learning experience. Much of what I learnt during the ten days is directly applicable to my work in South Sudan and has helped to guide me in my planning for monitoring the quality of the programme we’re implementing. It will also help me to prepare for future projects, knowing that I have learnt from the best and that I can ensure projects are the best they can be for the people they are created for.

The combination of lectures & interactive learning sessions and workshops was fantastic as it gave a real opportunity to learn academic theory, background and research as well as to use skills we developed during the course. A real highlight for me was a practical session whereby we were in roleplay as refugees. Given the internationally diverse nature of the participants, we were able to realistically enact having border authorities who spoke a different language from the majority. It provided us with an experience of what it must be like to be refugees, moving as families through a setting that is totally unknown. It was humbling to realise that Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services are a basic human right, and should be fundamentally integrated into every single area of our programming in the humanitarian sector. We work in these difficult contexts to save lives and alleviate the suffering of people who have already lost so much, but we can’t do that without focusing on MHPSS.

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