The provision of humanitarian aid to disaster-impacted individuals and communities is a growing challenge. Whether emergency needs are the result of natural disasters or violent armed conflict, timely psychosocial support can have a lasting positive impact when administered effectively and within the context of local practices. Particularly important is recognizing who is most at risk (e.g., separated or unaccompanied children, pregnant women, the elderly without caregivers, refugees and internally displaced persons) and who will likely prove resilient via access to the community’s traditional methods of support.
Psychologists for Social Responsibility supports recent developments toward establishing clear guidelines and best practices in this arena, and our members are involved in efforts to better address humanitarian crises through education, policy analysis, and advocacy.
New Global Guidelines from IASC
Released in February, 2007 from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), a global collective of UN agencies and NGOs that work to improve humanitarian coordination: The first global, inter-agency Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. The guidelines reflect the insights of 27 UN agencies and NGOs, extensive consultation with practitioners around the world, and multiple reviews by leading scholars, practitioners and agencies, including PsySR.
The Guidelines were developed by a special task force of the IASC that was co-chaired by Mike Wessells, past president of PsySR and a member of PsySR’s advisory board. They focus specifically on minimum response — the first steps that need to be taken in the midst of an emergency. In addition to guiding the activities of psychologists and social workers, they also have a multi-sectoral orientation and spell out how colleagues in sectors such as shelter and food aid can support psychosocial well-being.
The guidelines are a significant milestone in the still young field of mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies. That field has lacked credible, appropriate guidance in international settings and has had more than its share of Do No Harm issues. The guidelines are now the global standard that will be used in emergency settings by lead UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNHCR, OCHA, WFP,UNFPA; by the International Federation of the Red Cross; by international NGOs; and by community based organizations as well. Please use and distribute the guidelines as broadly as possible, as they represent the new state-of-the-art in practice. The complete Guidelines are available HERE.
PsySR Conference Report: Integrating Approaches to Psychosocial Humanitarian Assistance
Psychologists and other mental health professionals are increasingly involved in assisting individuals and communities affected by ethnopolitical warfare and other contemporary forms of violent conflict. This Conference Report explores the many challenges associated with this critical work.
A Graduate Level Curriculum For Trauma Intervention and Conflict Resolution
This Graduate Level Curriculum for trauma intervention and conflict resolution in ethnopolitical warfare was prepared by a joint task force of the American and Canadian Psychological Associations. PsySR served as the secretariat for this important project.
Links and Resources to Learn More and Take Action
PsySR’s alphabetical listing of organizations focused on humanitarian aid is available HERE. Many offer ways that citizens can take action TODAY to address these urgent challenges. We welcome recommendations of additional websites.