The purpose of mental health promotion and psychosocial support is to protect or promote well-being and prevent or treat mental health problems and should be considered a cross-cutting theme in the pillars and sectors involved in the response to public health emergencies.
“In Trinidad and Tobago, we formed our technical working group on mental health and psychosocial support, which was a key part of our response. This group enabled us to understand precisely who was doing what and where, and to better coordinate the support that was being provided. From the outset, we could identify any gap to put things in place, not only to support the population but to support each other, especially the medical health care providers working to support the COVID 19 response.” Zita Emanuelle, Ministry of Health, Trinidad and Tobago.”
To strengthen mental health coordination in humanitarian emergencies, PAHO/WHO promoted the online course “Coordination of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSSS) in Humanitarian Emergencies” from December 2020 to April 2021. This course stresses the importance of promoting leadership and working with other sectors in mental health and psychosocial support to meet the needs of countries impacted by humanitarian emergencies
The participants consisted of 38 professionals from 14 Caribbean countries, as well as Guyana and Suriname, (mental health professionals, social workers, educators-instructors, humanitarian aid workers, experts in emergencies). Concepts, theories, and relevant practical skills were taught for the development of efficient mental health coordination mechanisms.
Zita Emanuelle of the Ministry of Health, Trinidad and Tobago, added “The course was extremely important. Monitoring and evaluation were one of the key topics. We have been able to review and adjust our implementation plan. We are in the Caribbean hurricane zone and have had floods in the past; we had an earthquake. Therefore, it’s a matter of being able to use everything we now know and plan not only for the pandemic but for all emergencies. The course enabled us to see different ways of doing things, and the teamwork enabled us to develop relations with our colleagues from different Caribbean islands. The course also helped us develop a critical vision of what we were doing in Trinidad and Tobago."
This course also offered guidance on how to organize and facilitate coordination in mental health and strengthen response capacity in complex humanitarian emergencies and relief operations in areas such as needs assessment, monitoring and evaluation, understanding the humanitarian context, and self-care.
“This course has developed a program for capacity building in the Region to educate the participants on key topics so that they can include MHPSSS in their respective contexts. The course stresses that the well-being of the population is the responsibility of all, primarily including the affected communities themselves. In other words, it breaks from the traditional vision that MHPSSS is the exclusive responsibility of mental health professionals like psychologists or psychiatrists.” Claudina Cayetano, PAHO/WHO Regional Advisor on Mental Health
This course consisted of eight online modules, group work, and analysis of a variety of topics, from architecture and humanitarian principles to discussions on complex coordination operations in the MHPSSS response.
Course participants presented a final project in which they applied the knowledge they acquired in the course to their country’s situation. They studied the situation and planned the action to take until the end of 2021. PAHO continues to provide technical advice to participants in the implementation of their action plans.
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