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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 235-247

Mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings: reflections on a review of UNHCR’s approach and activities

1 Assistant Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health, Program on Forced Migration and Health, Columbia University, and Associate Director for Research at The Afri Child Centre, Kampala, Uganda., Uganda
2 Senior Policy and Evaluation Officer in UNHCR’s Policy Development and Evaluation Service in Geneva, Switzerland., Switzerland

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Mental health and psychosocial support activities are increasingly becoming a core component of humanitarian response and support for displaced persons in emergencies. However, recognition of the mental health and psychosocial impacts of conflict, disaster and displacement is relatively new within the sphere of humanitarian assistance. This paper, therefore, describes and expands on findings from a review of the UN Refugee Agency’s engagement with mental health and psychosocial support for refugees. While this review specifically focused on one agency within the humanitarian field, it should be useful to many humanitarian agencies working in the field as the number of displacement scenarios grow and mental health and psychosocial aspects of displacement are increasingly evident. This review identified three key themes; 1) engaging with mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings as an approach and as a set of interventions was found to be a useful framework; 2) challenges in measuring and evaluating mental health and psychosocial support activities, and the ways in which these challenges influence mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings is discussed; and 3) limitations in provision of clinical mental health services were evident.

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