Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

Humanitarian crises, like natural disasters and situations of armed conflict, can have significant impacts on an individual’s psychological, social, and emotional well-being. These impacts can be acute in the short-term and if left untreated, can have long-term consequences that undermine the mental health and psychosocial well-being of the affected population.

Mental health and psychosocial support programs help people recover after a crisis. These programs are critical not only to the response efforts, but to community preparedness activities aimed at strengthening and building the resilience of individuals and communities.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) 101

Individuals are each affected differently by crisis and emergency situations. According to IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, a layered system of complementary supports is the best way to meet the varying needs of the population in which you are working.

Preparedness for individuals and communities vulnerable to disaster situations

Disaster preparedness programming can include training staff and volunteers on the psychosocial effects of disaster and the possible interventions needed in the immediate aftermath of a crisis.

Preparedness for staff and volunteers working in disaster response and humanitarian aid

Staff and volunteers working in emergency situations are expected to function in chaotic and complex environments with the responsibility of providing life saving services and programs to individuals and communities in dire circumstances. Many workers experience insufficient managerial and organizational support, which exacerbates the stress experienced on the job. As the frequency and severity of humanitarian crises increase, the need to protect the mental health of humanitarian workers is becoming even more critical.

Concept Definition
Disaster Mental Health The immediate, onsite psychological support to individuals and families affected by disaster. Typically is a short-term approach, involving assessment of needs and referral to appropriate service.
Mental health and psychosocial support This composite term is used in the IASC guidelines to describe any type of local or outside support that aims to protect or promote psychosocial well-being and/or prevent or treat mental disorder. The terms mental health and psychosocial support are closely related, and for many aid workers reflect different, yet complementary approaches.
Mental health The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Health sector agencies tend to speak of mental health
Psychosocial support A process of facilitating resilience within individuals, families and communities. By respecting the independence , dignity and coping mechanisms of individuals and communities, psychosocial support promotes the restoration of social cohesion and infrastructure.
Psychological First Aid (PFA) PFA is a set of actions that can offer immediate support to people in need of help. PFA does not serve as a replacement when mental health services are needed, but can serve as a way to help individuals build resilience. (Coping in Today’s World, American Red Cross)
Trauma Either a physical injury or a psychological injury caused by some extreme emotional assault. Trauma can be associated with severe psychological and physical distress requiring specialized services. (Psychosocial Interventions: A Handbook, International Federation Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support)