Mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings

Humanitarian crises such as natural disasters and armed conflicts impact the mental health of individuals and their communities. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) have recently become increasingly central components of development and humanitarian programming. International organizations and non-governmental organizations have now reached a broad consensus on effective, ethical programming in the field largely due to the MHPSS Reference Group and its international network of professionals. However, strong evidence-based scientific studies and research are still needed to further understand which MHPSS approaches are most effective in certain situations.

People with disabilities are often not included in mainstream MHPSS services, and there are few resources available to support people with disabilities when dealing with psychosocial issues connected to humanitarian crises. Moving forward, it is important that disability-inclusive MHPSS practices are mainstreamed in the comprehensive service packages that are offered by agencies and organisations. This is supported by articles 9 and 25 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

This key list gathers introductory information, manuals and guides, specific resources for mental health and psychosocial support in emergency situations. We welcome your suggestions: please send comments or suggested additions to sourceassistant@hi-uk.org.

Selected resources

Books, reports, etc

Characteristics of a safe and resilient community : community based disaster risk reduction study

ARUP INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
September 2011

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"This research report on the Characteristics of a Safe and Resilient Community has been prepared by Arup’s International Development team (Arup ID) on behalf of the IFRC as part of a wider Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) Study of the Tsunami Recovery Programme (TRP). Specifically, this report draws on the experience of the TRP CBDRR programmes and current literature in order to identify the characteristics of safe and resilient communities; to understand how these characteristics changed over time and how RCRC interventions have contributed to this change"

Handbook on psychosocial assessment of children and communities in emergencies

THE UNITED NATIONS CHLDREN'S FUND (UNICEF)

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"This is a guidebook for any agency, organization or academic doing rehabilitation work and focuses on the assessment to be conducted when an emergency first hits or just after a major event in an armed conflict. In these situations, typically a responding agency or group organizes an assessment team of five to eight people who go to the affected area to determine the needs of survivors. This handbook speaks to those assessment teams that focus on the psychosocial as well as physical needs of children, their families and the communities"

IASC guidelines for mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings

INTER-AGENCY STANDING COMMITTEE (IASC)
2007

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These guidelines provide information to organisations and individuals on how to respond during humanitarian emergencies by highlighting eleven specific action sheets that offer practical guidance on mental health and psychosocial support. The guidelines include a matrix of interventions with guidance for emergency planning, actions to be taken in the early stages of an emergency, and comprehensive responses needed in the recovery and rehabilitation phases. This resource is gives humanitarian actors useful inter-agency, inter-sectoral guidance and tools for responding effectively in the midst of emergencies

Mental health and psychosocial support for conflict-related sexual violence : principles and interventions

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO) Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse
2012

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This resource outlines principles and interventions in relation to mental health and psychosocial support for conflict-related sexual violence
WHO/RHR/HRP/12.18
"Responding to the psychosocial and mental health needs of sexual violence survivors in conflict-affected Settings"
Ferney-Voltaire, France
28-30 November 2011

Mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian emergencies : what should humanitarian health actors know

IASC REFERENCE GROUP FOR MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT IN EMERGENCY SETTINGS
2010

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"This document is for humanitarian health actors working at national and sub-national level in countries facing emergencies and crises. It applies to Health Cluster partners, including governmental and non-governmental health service providers. Based on the IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (IASC, 2007), this document gives an overview of essential knowledge that humanitarian health actors should have about mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in humanitarian emergencies"

Mental health in post-crisis and development contexts : how to promote and develop projects to improve access to prevention and care, and the social participation for people living with mental health problems

PEGON, Guillaume
April 2011

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"This policy paper describes Handicap International’s mandate and values in operational terms applied to mental health in post-crisis and development contexts. It presents the approaches and reference elements for Handicap International’s actions, choices and commitments. It aims to ensure coherence in terms of practices whilst taking into account differing contexts. So this is a guidance document for the teams working on mental health. It defines the topic and explains its relationship with the mandate of the organization. It also outlines the target populations, methods of intervention (expected results, activities), indicators for monitoring and evaluation. This policy document aims to ensure that all projects and activities carried out by programs are consistent with the modalities of intervention presented"
Policy paper 3

mhGAP mental health gap action programme : scaling up care for mental, neurological, and substance use disorders

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)
2008

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This report presents an action plan to scale up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders for countries, especially low and lower middle income countries. It describes the mhGAP programme, outlines framework for country action and emphasises the building of partnerships. This resource is useful for people interested in scaling up services for mental health in developing countries

Psychological first aid : guide for field workers

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO),
WAR TRAUMA FOUNDATION (WTF),
WORLD VISION INTERNATIONAL
2011

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"This guide covers psychological first aid which involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human beings suffering serious crisis events. It is written for people in a position to help others who have experienced an extremely distressing event. It gives a framework for supporting people in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities. Despite its name, psychological first aid covers both social and psychological support"

Supporting persons living with trauma by rebuilding social and community links : an example of a community-based mental health approach after the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis

PHAN, Xuan
November 2009

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This report provides an overview of the lessons learned from a Handicap International community-based mental health project for children and adolescents experiencing psychological suffering after the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis. It highlights successes and limitations of the project, as well as recommendations for the project’s continuation. This report would be of interest to mental health practitioners, mental health service providers and community mental health organisations

The humanitarian emergency settings perceived needs scale (HESPER) : manual with scale

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO),
KINGS COLLEGE LONDON
2011

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The HESPER Scale "aims to provide a method for assessing perceived needs in representative samples of populations affected by large-scale humanitarian emergencies in a valid and reliable manner. This manual includes the HESPER Scale (see Appendix 1), as well as a detailed explanation of how to use the HESPER Scale, how to train interviewers, and how to organise, analyze and report on a HESPER survey"

Towards well-being for Afghans with disability : the health challenge

BAKHSHI, Parul,
TRANI, Jean-Francois
2006

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This report is part of the National Disability Survey in Afghanistan. It aims to identify the number of Afghans with a disability, the barriers they face, and their access to rehabilitation services and other health provision. This report is inclusive of the needs of people with psycho-social disabilities and represents the first steps toward developing a systemic approach to health and disability provision in Afghanistan

UNHCR mental health and psychosocial support for persons of concern

MEYER, Sarah
2013

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"This evaluation reports on how well the United Nations High Commission for Refugees considers and provides for the well-being and mental health of persons of concern to the agency. Through a survey of UNHCR field staff, extensive literature and policy review, and key informant interviews with MHPSS experts from academic institutions, international agencies and non-governmental organizations, this review provides insight into how UNHCR’s current activities contribute towards improved mental health and psychosocial well-being of displaced persons and how UNHCR’s current policy frameworks relate to established practices and frameworks in the MHPSS field"

Who is where, when, doing what (4Ws) in mental health and psychosocial support : manual with activity codes

IASC REFERENCE GROUP FOR MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT IN EMERGENCY SETTINGS
2012

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"Humanitarian actors in emergencies often encounter challenges in knowing Who is Where, When, doing What (4Ws) with regard to mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). Such knowledge is essential to inform coordination. 4Ws tools are used in many areas of aid to map activities conducted across large geographical areas". This manual outlines the 4Ws with regard to mental health and psychosocial support for humanitarian actors with MHPSS coordinating responsibilities. The tool exists in two parts: a 4Ws data collection spreadsheets application (in excel online) and this manual which describes how to collect the data

WHO QualityRights tool kit : assessing and improving quality and human rights in mental health and social care facilities

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (WHO)
2012

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The WHO QualityRights tool kit has been developed to support countries in assessing and improving the quality and human rights of their mental health and social care facilities. The tool kit is based on an extensive international review by people with mental disabilities and their organizations. It has been pilot-tested in low-, middle- and high-income countries and is designed to be applied in all of these resource settings