As one of the very few international relief organizations to make mental health care a priority, International Medical Corps has the capacity to respond to mental health and psychosocial needs in the context of humanitarian crises, as well as in mental health system strengthening and informing national policies in the longer term development context.
We achieved significant breakthroughs recently in its fight for comprehensive mental health care - historically one of the great neglected burdens of developing societies - by:
- Launching a large-scale, regional initiative that will bring mental health and psychosocial support to displaced Syrians in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. Strengthening national health systems by training medical and non-medical professionals to handle increased demands for mental health and psychosocial services triggered by the Middle East's biggest refugee crisis in two generations. The size of the program and International Medical Corps’ approach to mental health reflects how affected populations have multiple and complex needs and require a comprehensive mental health and case management approach which identifies, supports and protects those who are vulnerable and promotes stability and recovery.
- Spearheading initiatives within and beyond targeted healthcare facilities that promote mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for Typhoon Haiyan-affected people in the Philippines. International Medical Corps is working with traditional community-based support systems, involving social workers, faith leaders and other key persons at the community level who can provide basic psychosocial support, linking them to doctors and nurses trained by International Medical corps using mhGAP on the identification and frontline management of mental health priority conditions; thus strengthening and expanding the continuum of care from the community to health facilities and back down.
Mental illness is one of the great invisible burdens on all societies, accounting for 4 of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide. Populations affected by conflict and crises are not only faced with stressful experiences such as violence and loss, but also often have to adapt to the challenges of new environments such as transitional and camp facilities. Distressing experiences and fragmented or insufficient services can lead to unaddressed mental health and psychosocial issues, impacting the welfare and functioning of individuals and families. Indeed, in emergencies the percentage of the population experiencing common mental disorders doubles (from 10% to about 20%), while those with pre-existing and severe mental illnesses remain especially vulnerable and often have no access to care. Yet, there is only one psychiatrist per every two million people in low-income countries and there are often no or very few qualified psychologists or social workers. All mental health problems affect a person’s ability to function, carry out day-to-day tasks and establish or maintain relationships with others. Good mental health and psychosocial well-being are essential for adapting to new situations and challenges.
A leader in mental health care in emergency settings, we have implemented mental health programs throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as in the United States following Hurricane Katrina.