Mental Health

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Mental illness is the most common non-communicable disease in the world, affecting 450 million people, yet it goes largely ignored and untreated as it quietly drains the strength from communities. In emergencies, the problem is greater still as the percentage of the population suffering severe mental disorders rises and those with pre-existing mental illnesses are exposed to new levels of stress.


Our response

As part of our holistic approach to health care International Medical Corps prioritises mental health needs in emergencies and integrates mental health into its community-based primary health care, providing specialised training, support and supervision to front-line practitioners and coordinating with local authorities.

International Medical Corps works with community leaders to understand cultural expressions of mental distress, and to establish mental health referral clinics attached to primary health care centres. International Medical Corps also works to de-stigmatise mental illness through community education and awareness programmes.

As one of the few international relief organisations to make mental health care a priority, even during emergencies, International Medical Corps has the capacity to address the immediate psychosocial needs of communities struck by disaster as well as identify and treat those with pre-existing mental health disorders.


How our work is transforming lives
A safe place for children in Lebanon
Following the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, International Medical Corps immediately mobilised to address the mental health needs of thousands of conflict-affected Iraqi refugees and Lebanese host populations by establishing nine child-friendly spaces and seven community development centres. In coordination with the Ministry of Education, we also developed and delivered a comprehensive child friendly education and mental health training package to 450 school staff members from 28 schools, to address mental health issues stemming from the recent conflict. International Medical Corps currently trains local primary health care providers to diagnose, treat and refer mild-to-moderate cases of mental illness and disorders. We also established outreach and mobile mental health services to increase access to therapy for Iraqi refugees in need of clinic and home-based psychotherapeutic services.
Psychological First Aid
Psychological First Aid (PFA) was developed to teach first-responders and other front-line workers how to foster safe, positive, and supportive environments for survivors. Training in PFA gives people a better understanding of common reactions to stressful events, as well as how to listen in a supportive, empathetic way. For parents, there is guidance on how to help children cope, and more generally, when and how to refer someone who is experiencing severe distress. PFA also includes self-care tips for survivors and connects survivors to basic services where they can find psychosocial support.

As a first responder to more than 65 emergencies, International Medical Corps played a key role in developing and implementing the PFA approach. We helped develop the “Psychological First Aid Guide for Field Workers” that was recently released by the World Health Organisation and implemented PFA in natural disaster and conflicts including Haiti, Japan and Libya.

Early child development in Sierra Leone
Young children in low-resource settings, such as refugee or displacement communities, are particularly vulnerable to falling behind on important milestones in their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. In Sierra Leone, International Medical Corps implemented an Early Child Development (ECD) programme, integrated with existing structures such as nutrition programs and community centres. ECD focuses on improving parent-child interactions and increasing parents’ knowledge about the child’s developmental milestones as well as emotional and cognitive needs.




Just 22 hours after the devastating 7.0-earthquake hit in January 2010, International Medical Corps’ Emergency Response Team was on the ground in Haiti providing medical care to survivors. Our doctors and nurses were able to mobilise on an unparalleled scale to provide 24-hour emergency care to the acutely injured at the Hôpital de l’Université d’État d’Haiti (HUEH), a 700-bed hospital in Port-au-Prince. HUEH was badly damaged in the earthquake and many local health care professionals were missing. We were able to save thousands of lives through emergency and trauma care in the critical days following the earthquake.

At the height of emergency operations at the hospital, International Medical Corps treated approximately 1,000 patients per day. Our early entry also gave us the foundation to rapidly expand our operations to 15 mobile clinics throughout Haiti to provide critical services. Through the hospital and mobile and fixed clinics, International Medical Corps teams provided more than 110,000 patient consultations during the first year following the emergency.

When reports of acute diarrhoea emerged from the north of Haiti in October 2010, International Medical Corps doctors and nurses immediately deployed to the region providing emergency relief for the growing cholera crisis. Our network of rapidly constructed cholera treatment centres, supported by 820 community health volunteers to educate communities on how to prevent and identify cholera, meant that more than 30,000 cholera patients received life-saving treatment within the first year following the outbreak.



Libya ambulanceInternational Medical Corps was among the first organisations to enter Libya once the conflict began in February 2011, providing emergency medical care to casualties from the fighting and support to hospitals with medical staff and supplies. Among the first challenges our Emergency Response Teams encountered was a chronic shortage of nurses, as thousands of foreign nurses had fled the country. In partnership with the Jordan Health Aid Society, International Medical Corps immediately deployed volunteer nurses to health centres across eastern Libya moving them to towns and cities throughout the country as access permitted. Volunteer nurses trained the local counterparts while working alongside them.

At the country’s borders and within Libya, we supplied those displaced by the fighting with essential relief items, including blankets, bottled water and food. Recognising the danger posed by communicable diseases, our sanitation and hygiene specialists constructed latrines and washing stations in transit camps along the Tunisia borders.

Libya 5As the fighting went on International Medical Corps worked as close to the front line as possible, providing emergency treatment to those injured in the conflict, and medicines and supplies to besieged towns and cities. In Misurata, inaccessible by road, we evacuated nearly 500 injured civilians by boat. International Medical Corps’ mobile field hospitals treated the wounded from battles in Tripoli, the Western Mountains, Bani Walid, Sabha, Jufrah and Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte.



Mali - villagerInternational Medical Corps mobilized an emergency response in Mali in January 2013 after rebel armed forces from the north began moving south, triggering French military intervention. In Timbuktu, which had spent months under the control of armed Islamist rebel our team were amongst the first international organisations to arrive and found pillaged clinics, missing medical personnel and damaged health infrastructure.

We immediately began supporting eight strategically targeted health clinics in remote areas around Timbuktu, where the Malian Ministry of Health has been unable to maintain adequate services to local communities. By providing medicines, training staff and recruiting qualified doctors and nurses, we can ensure local people will now have access to basic primary and secondary health care for the first time in months

Mali-Road-to-TimbuktuTrue to our mission to build self reliance, International Medical Corps is also already training community health workers to go out to local markets and spread essential hygiene, reproductive health and nutrition messages. We are also working to rehabilitate clinics damaged during the conflict, by building or repairing latrines, water systems, solar panel systems and other infrastructure repairs, enabling health workers to have stable and well-equipped facilities to help the people of Mali.


Basanti & Bishal's story

Basanti, a young mother of two in Nepal, returned home from fetching water for her family to find her 8-month old son Bishal had fallen into the open cooking fire. Basanti was in shock, but she wrapped her baby in blankets and ran for help. No one in their village or at the local health post knew what to do so she had to travel more than six hours by bus to seek emergency care at the closest hospital. The district hospital could only stabilize Bishal and wasn’t able to treat his wounds properly. As a result, his little fingers contracted into a fist as the burned skin contracted and “healed” over the coming year, making it impossible for him to use his hand. His cheek, lips and eyelid also contracted and tightened, threatening his vision.

After selling part of their farm to pay for transportation to Kathmandu, Basanti sought further treatment for her baby. However, two hospitals in the nation’s capital could not help either. Adding to Basanti’s struggles, her husband abandoned the family, leaving her alone to care for Bishal and his four-year-old sister.

Thankfully, Basanti heard about the surgical care available through ReSurge International, our trusted partner with a 43-year history of serving burn victims. Dr. Rai, ReSurge’s Outreach Director in Nepal, and his team restored Bishal’s eyelid and his hand will soon be surgically repaired as well.

Even though it took more than a year for him to get appropriate treatment, Bishal is one of the lucky ones. Thousands of children never get the care they need to live a normal life after a disabling burn.


Our impact through training in 2012



Our Mother Care Group Approach


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