MHPSS to help yield better results in humanitarian action

Conflicts have a devastating impact not only on a country’s economic standing, infrastructure, and security but primarily on the social and mental well-being of its people. Those affected by a crisis often experience painful and unsettling situations. From extreme disempowerment to the feeling of rage and from hatred to shame, desperation, and guilt – affected populations suffer from a variety of negative feelings. Individual and cumulative effects of the conflict are observed in the wider structure of communities and societies.

Potentially traumatizing experiences do not affect everyone equally. Men, women, girls, and boys of different ages may have different ways of experiencing and expressing distress. Some people manage to cope with stressful events over time, especially if supportive environmental links get established or restored. However, for others, it takes more than just time to overcome their vulnerabilities. This is especially the case for the survivors of violence and for those who have lost family members to emergencies.

What is MHPSS?

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) is a term that refers to any type of support that aims to prevent and treat mental disorders or protect and promote psychosocial well-being. MHPSS has been drawing enhanced public attention lately. According to current data, approximately 450 million people worldwide are suffering from mental health and behavioral disorders. Over 800 000 deaths are due to suicide yearly – making mental health a crucial public issue. In general, MHPSS addresses a variety of issues from emotional distress and social problems to mental disorders, developmental disabilities, and alcohol and substance abuse.

Role of MHPSS in humanitarian action

MHPSS is a critical component of constructive humanitarian action with an inherent objective to help families and individuals resume more functional lives. The research and practical experience accumulated over the last few decades prove that providing adequate MHPSS actually works. It is especially effective if combined with basic needs support such as food, water, medical aid, and shelter. In fact, MHPSS can significantly contribute to peacebuilding. Its activities can help individuals recover and relate better to themselves and others. This way institutions, systems, and structures are rebuilt with a greater focus on equitable resource distribution and support for the recreation of healthier communities and societies.

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