International Medical Corps is one of the few global emergency response organizations with the capacity to address the immediate psychosocial needs of communities struck by disaster and to help those with preexisting mental disorders.
A chronic shortage of qualified, specialized mental health workers in many countries is compounded in humanitarian crises, when the availability of health staff is often limited and health facilities may be damaged or access to them otherwise compromised. Improving access to sustainable and quality mental health care requires training, outreach efforts and effective communication and consultation between all those involved. This approach includes working with first responders, community health workers, primary healthcare staff, mental health specialists and government stakeholders.
International Medical Corps has extensive experience in training and building capacity of professionals—including general healthcare workers, social workers and psychologists—to provide more-specialized services at the community level. We support mental health services at all levels of care. Raising awareness of the principles of psychological first aid (PFA) among staff and volunteers responding to crisis is an integral part of our emergency response. Integrating mental health into primary healthcare (PHC) to expand access to quality mental health care services in humanitarian settings is another cornerstone of International Medical Corps programming. For the longer term, we support the development of national mental health care policies and work to boost capacity of local organizations to provide mental health and psychosocial support services.
Those experiencing mental health issues often have complex needs that require the attention of specialists from more than one discipline. To address such challenges, International Medical Corps has developed a mental health case management approach that meets multiple needs, such as health and safety, while working with individuals on goal-setting, and connecting them with available resources to support them as they move toward better functioning.
Recognizing and treating psychosocial issues at the community level strengthens a community’s ability to support those with pre-existing mental disorders, particularly in the context of an emergency situation. International Medical Corps’ interventions focus on providing individual, supportive counseling by case managers, and promoting community awareness by teaching community residents about common mental health problems, how to reduce stigma and how to support those affected by mental health issues.
Highlights & Resources
• International Medical Corps Literature Review on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Guinea-Conakry
This literature review (available in English and in French) outlines the key findings of the existing academic and gray literature related to Guinean mental health and psychosocial issues and services, with a specific emphasis on the 2014-16 Ebola crisis. It summarizes information on mental health and psychosocial issues, including prevalence, help-seeking strategies, and formal and informal services and sources of support.
• Psychological First Aid on the Move: What you need to know
This piece outlines the basic steps of PFA and its value across humanitarian contexts, based on staff work in Greece.
• Mental Health Support for Refugees
International Medical Corps has launched educational booklets about common mental health issues as part of its wider effort to promote mental health care among Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon.
We provide culturally appropriate mental health and psychosocial support to individuals, families and communities.
Our Community of Practice calls with technical staff in our country teams prioritize sharing experiences and lessons learned across programs.