Community update: Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) (June 2019): Mental health in conflict settings, education and psychosocial support, community-based approaches

Katy Wall
Katy is an MHPSS specialist originally from the U.S., currently consulting from Nairobi, Kenya.
Katy holds a master's degree in clinical psychology from the University of Denver's International Disaster Psychology Program. Since beginning her work in international humanitarian response, she has held a variety of roles in the MHPSS sector including: program management; training and supervision; program development and coordination. Moreover, she has contributed to guideline and tool development to support program implementation with a variety of INGOs as well as the United Nations. Her work has included focus in many contexts including India, Nepal, Yemen, and Central African Republic and presently has her engaged with projects in Libya and across East and South Africa.
Community updates provide brief highlights from expert practitioners about what they see as the key developments in a specific area, what resources they would recommend, and what to look out for in the coming months.

Key developments

Prevalence of mental disorders in conflict settings

For the first time in more than ten years, WHO has published updated estimates on the prevalence of mental disorders in conflict-affected settings. Reflecting a more accurate depiction of the present situation, the findings are not new in that they continue to demonstrate that the prevalence of disorder in conflict-affected populations is higher than the global average. Through this article, see the data speak to the urgent need for scalable mental health intervention in the humanitarian space.

Education and psychosocial support

While MHPSS has long advocated for cross-cutting integration into the education sector and education response in humanitarian settings, practical guidance of such integration is something practitioners in the sector expressed a need for. The recent Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) Guidance Note on Psychosocial Support clarifies the education sector’s importance in supporting the wellbeing of children and youth, provides practical tips and advice about how to integrate PSS into formal and non-formal education efforts, and highlights linkages between PSS in education and other sectors.

Recommended resources

Community-based approaches

This recent note is provides practical guide on key considerations to keep in mind when defining, designing, and implementing community-based MHPSS programs. Sourced from already existing guidelines and best-practice models, the note is coined as a "short reminder" which frames and validates what most practitioners already know from their daily practice.

Fragility, conflict, and violence situations

The World Bank Group in Health, Nutrition & Population Global Practice released a “knowledge series” on mental health and psychosocial support in fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) situations. See an overview of why investing in MHPSS in FCV settings is important, who has MHPSS needs in FCV settings, what interventions should be considered for different settings and groups, what the World Bank has been doing including challenges and lessons learned and a section on how mental health interventions should be evaluated. A one-stop-shop with embedded resources on statistics, interventions, reports and guidance.

Improving MHPSS systems and services

The result of a series of conferences convened to bring together experts in the field of mental health, this report summarizes key recommendations and ways forward toward closing the gap between knowledge and practice in order to improve MHPSS systems and services in humanitarian settings and the development sector. The report includes discussions, findings, and recommendations. See Annex 1 (recommendations) which includes information that can support advocacy for improving funding, planning and implementation of comprehensive, quality and sustainable MHPSS interventions in protracted and post-conflict settings.

Keep an eye out for...

Regional Psychosocial Support Forum “Breaking Barriers… Creating Connections”, 27-29 August 2019, Windhoek, Namibia: A bi-annual PSS forum that brings together youth, practitioners, researchers, academics, policy makers, international cooperating partners, and media to network, share evidence and promising practices, discuss challenges and develop new solutions, to influence policy formulation and enhance programming. This year’s forum is organized around five themes: Linking sexual and reproductive health and rights to psychosocial and mental wellbeing; Investing in social services workforce; Technology: a catalyst to breaking barriers; Breaking barriers and creating connections through national and regional coordination; Addressing the psychosocial needs of children and youth in humanitarian and emergency settings. Visit the event website for more information and registration.
WHO’s STARS Project is developing a digital intervention targeting adolescents (age 15-18) experiencing high levels of psychological distress in order to overcome common barriers to mental health services and increase access to support. Still in its development phase, the team has been collaborating with adolescents in five settings (Jamaica, Pakistan, Nepal, South Africa, the West Bank and Gaza Strip) to inform the development of the intervention and test initial prototypes. If clinical trials scheduled for early next year prove a positive impact, the intervention will be made into a free of charge, global resource to support adolescents around the world. Keep an eye on the progress of this project here and here.
PHAP community updates are written by members of the association and other practitioners in their personal capacity. The views expressed belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of PHAP or any other organizations with which the author is associated.