Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Coordination is a Priority in Humanitarian Emergencies

4 Jun 2021
Cover of the course

Humanitarian Emergencies such as outbreaks and socio-environmental disasters can affect significantly the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of an individual child or adult, especially with particular groups in situation of vulnerability.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) aims to protect or promote psychosocial well-being and prevent or treat mental health condition and should be considered a cross-cutting issue amongst all sectors and emergency pillars involved in the response.

The Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Coordination in Humanitarian Emergencies Course have been concluded with a successful participation of 38 participants (mental health professional, social workers, educators-teacher, humanitarian workers, emergency experts) from 14 countries from Caribbean region, including countries from other regions as well such as Guyana and Suriname. This Course began in December 2020 and ended in Abril 2021.  

This course provides guidance on how to establish, organize and facilitate MHPSS coordination and strengthen current adjunct applicable skills for use in complex humanitarian emergencies and relief operations, such as needs assessments, monitoring and evaluation, understanding the humanitarian context, and self-care.  

Claudina Cayetano, Mental Health Regional Advisor PAHO, explains “This course has been able to pilot a structured capacity building programme across the region to equip the different participants in the necessary steps of integrating MHPSS in their respective contexts. The course highlights that the population wellbeing is the responsibility of all, including and primary the affected community themselves, an understanding that breaks the traditional, common sense view, that MHPSS is the responsibility of Mental Health Professionals only, such as psychologists or psychiatrists”.

This course promotes and supports leadership and work with other sectors on MHPSS to respond to technical needs of countries affected by humanitarian emergencies. Participants have engaged over 8 online modules, group work and in-depth oriented studies covering a range of topics from humanitarian architecture and principles, up to high level discussion on complex MHPSS response coordination operations.

 Marcio Gagliato, MHPSS expert and PAHO Academic Coordinator responsible for the course design and implementation, explains that the course has made important and timely contribution for the region.   “In this sense, I would highlight few important achievements, first what I would call the “MHPSS Advocacy”, which is the capacity to understand that MHPSS should be at the onset of an emergency response, second that MHPSS is not about only treating MH conditions, but actually it is the responsibility of all actors responding to the emergency – what they do, and most importantly the way that aid is provided, have a significant impact on the wellbeing of the population, and third that the course has been able to demonstrate practical steps on MHPSS operationalization and coordination when a major emergency happens”.

The participants submitted a final project where they applied all knowledge gained over the course into their country realities, analyzing the situation and planning actions to follow until end of 2021. PAHO will continue supporting the participants in implementing their action plan, by providing MHPSS Technical Supervision for the countries/participants that would like to continue receiving support.