How one Syrian in Iraq trained to provide mental health support to other refugees
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Humanitarian Settings
Survivors of conflict and disasters are at higher risk for psychological distress and mental health conditions due to continued and overwhelming chaos and uncertainty, as well as the enormity of their loss that often includes homes, community, loved ones and livelihoods.
As one of the few international relief organisations to prioritise prevention and treatment of mental health and psychosocial needs in humanitarian crises, we have the capacity to respond to these immediate needs. As communities recover and development begins, we focus on the longer term, to help strengthen mental health care systems and shape national policies.
We have achieved significant breakthroughs in the fight for comprehensive mental health care by:
- Advocating for mental health care with donors, governments and policy makers, taking a lead in assessing needs and mapping services, coordinating activities of different actors and promoting best practices and guidelines.
- Launching large scale initiatives to bring MHPSS care to displaced populations living in emergency conditions.
- Training medical and non-medical professionals to strengthen national health systems – particularly to address refugee crises
- Implementing an approach centred on careful case management that identifies, supports and protects those who are vulnerable and promotes stability and recovery.
- Working with traditional community-based support groups and key people who can offer basic psychosocial support within the community.
- Linking existing community support groups with local doctors and nurses trained by International Medical Corps to strengthen and expand the continuum of care from the community level to other local, regional and national health facilities.
- Mental illness accounts for 4 of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide.
- During emergencies, rates of those suffering with common mental disorders can double from 10% to 20%.
- The annual cost of mental illness globally is projected to rise to $6 trillion by 2030.
Areas of Focus
Leadership in Mental Health
International Medical Corps plays a leading role in the advancement of mental health systems in humanitarian settings. We contribute to the development of global guidelines and national policies for improving mental health and well-being among affected populations.
- WHO estimates the global cost of dementia in 2010 was $602 billion. US defense spending in 2014 was $600 billion.
- Between 2011 and 2030 mental health conditions will account for the loss of $16.1 trillion in economic growth.
- The cost of alcohol abuse and related disorders equals 1.3-3.3% of GDP in high and middle-income countries. US public spending for primary and secondary education accounts for 3% of GDP.
Building Comprehensive Services
International Medical Corps is one of the few global emergency response organisations with the capacity to address both the immediate psychosocial needs of communities struck by disaster and to assist those with preexisting mental disorders at the community level.
- Only 1 per cent of the global health workforce is working in the field of mental health today.
- Four out of five people with mental health conditions do not receive care in low and middle-income countries.
- Mental health is critically important to the overall health, economy and social development of whole communities and societies – not just individuals experiencing mental illness.
Integrating Into Primary Healthcare
International Medical Corps uses a comprehensive approach to adapt training materials to the local context, providing both foundational training and supervision, supporting institutional changes and capacity building while also evaluating results to inform policy, practice and scale-up.
- Low-income countries have an average of only 1 psychiatrist per every two million people.
- Discrimination and stigma create barriers for people with mental illness to access health and social services.
- Globally, skilled human resources for mental health services are limited, inadequate and most centralised in major cities and national capitals.