On November 23, 2011a special issue of Intervention, The International Journal of Mental Health, Psychosocial Work and Counseling in Areas of Armed Conflict was published.
The theme of the issue is: The integration of mental health into existing health systems during and after complex emergencies.
Fifteen articles describe a wide range of experiences in a variety of contexts such as:
- Haiti and Peru after devastating earthquakes
- Sri Lanka after the tsunami
- Countries recovering from armed conflict (Iraq, Uganda and Burundi)
- Countries dealing with occupation (Palestinian territory)
- Countries dealing with authoritarian rule (Equatorial Guinea)
- Countries dealing with influx of large groups of refugees (Lebanon, Syria and Chad)
Financially supported by UNHCR through an unrestricted grant, this 220-page issue of Intervention contains articles written by International Medical Corps Mental Health experts regarding our Lebanon and Haiti mental health programs.
Editors for this special issue are Editor in Chief, Peter Ventevogel (the Netherlands), Florence Baingana (Uganda), Alberto Fernández Liria (Spain) and Pau Pérez-Sales (Spain). All are psychiatrists with a breadth of experience in developing mental health care systems in (post) emergency settings. Perez-Sales, stressed the importance of the journal’s theme:
”In aid work one often makes a distinction between humanitarian and development aid. This distinction is more theoretical than real. It is well known that the impact of a disaster (and the possibility to confront it effectively) depends strongly on the social, political and structural conditions of the community in which the event occurred. Real aid should go beyond palliative actions to alleviate the immediate needs of survivors Real aid should also consist of a comprehensive set of actions that work towards a longer term goal.
The World Health Organization and experts agree that probably the biggest global mental health challenge for the twenty-first century is the effective introduction of mental health into primary care health. Access to mental health care is a basic human right. The challenge is to reflect on how emergencies (acute or chronic) may provide opportunities for strengthening local mental health systems.
This special issue demonstrates the emerging consensus about good and bad practices. It is simply not acceptable anymore to spend huge sums of money on short-term mental health programmes that ignore the reality of the communities. Existing resources must be optimized to ensure that humanitarian aid has a genuine transformative power”
The integration of mental health into general health care systems is a cornerstone of our work at International Medical Corps. Whether in relief or development settings, our mental health and psychosocial programs are informed by local needs, build on existing community resources and structures, involve training of national counterparts, and are designed to be integrated into existing services such as health or nutrition. This ensures that services are community-driven, accessible, non-stigmatizing, and sustainable. International Medical Corps has completed or is carrying out mental health programs integrated into general health care in Sierra Leone, Haiti, Aceh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, Gaza, Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon. To learn more about our approach for integrating mental health into general health care click here.
The special issue can be viewed at www.interventionjnl.com