An international regional psychotherapy conference entitled “Medicine, Psychotherapy and Cultural Transmission” was held October 15-17, 2015 in Beirut, Lebanon. The aim of the conference was to harmonize the health sectors and to integrate mental health into health care systems. As a key actor in mental health programming, International Medical Corps was represented at the conference by two main speakers: Dr. Mohamed ElShazly, Mental Health and Psycho Social Support Regional Advisor and Dr. Michel Soufia, Mental Health Advisor in Lebanon.
Dr Mohamed ElShazly gave a presentation on “Systems Thinking for Mental Health in Emergencies”, focusing on the interaction between the individual and his/her surrounding environment. International Medical Corps’ wide use of the case management approach has been recognized as being successful as having more efficient and positive long term results. “By looking at a person’s whole life and environment, we are better able to address issues that may affect mental health,” stated Dr. ElShazly. “This is why we train local people to conduct this work in their own community because our local staff members – who represent 98% of the total staff – understand the cultural and social environment surrounding their patients,” he concluded.
Dr. Soufia’s presentation highlighted International Medical Corps’ work in Lebanon. He focused on International Medical Corps’ approach that is consistent with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidelines that offer best practices and look at social and psychological aspects across the different sectors: coordination, provision of food and shelter, and health services. Dr Soufia stressed the uniqueness of International Medical Corps’ work by stating “What sets us aside from other organizations is that we never work alone. We build on existing structures and local capacities that will continue to be there after our support ends.”