Advocacy for mental health

War Trauma Foundation is increasingly active in promoting the need to improve mental health care in humanitarian emergencies. The High Level Summit on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings – which the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting in Amsterdam in October – is already generating extra attention for the topic.

War Trauma co-organised part of the one-day conference on Psycho Social Support in the Middle East on June 6. War Trauma had invited Dr. Bayan Rasul of the Emma Organisation from the Kurdish region in Iraq to present and discuss her experiences with the treatment of Yezidi women and girls. Emma is supporting 600 Yezidi women who were captured by IS insurgents. Many of these women were victims of conflict related sexual violence. The report of the conference you can find here (English only)

Earlier this year War Trauma was the host of a meeting of the CRSV Network, which focuses on Conflict Related sexual Violence. Based on our experience supporting the mental health care and psychosocial support offered to survivors of sexual violence at the Emma Organisation in Kurdistan and Panzi Hospital in DRCongo, we provide specific insights to the network. Network organisations also indicated how lawyers providing legal support to survivors of sexual violence are struggling with their own mental health.

Ahead of the High Level Summit – which will mainly be for ministers and government experts – War Trauma will host the Inter Agency Standing Committee on MHPSS (IASC). The aim of the IASC is to advocate for the implementation of the IASC Guidelines for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (IASC, 2007). During the meeting the IASC members will discuss what countries can do more to improve the mental health care response in cases of humanitarian emergencies.

Queen of the Netherlands visits ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands last may visited ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre, which War Trauma Foundation is a part of. During the work visit the work of ARQ Centrum ’45 around the treatment of psychotrauma had special focus but there also was some brief attention for our work in humanitarian emergencies.

Queen Maxima regularly talks to veterans and different emergency workers and is very interested in the treatment of psychotrauma and other psychosocial issues. One of the treatments demonstrated was the 3MDR method in which a client walks on a treadmill while looking at images that remind him or her of the traumatising event. At the same time the practitioner discusses the events with the client.

Other topics discussed were the roots of ARQ in the resistance during the second worldwar and also the work of War Trauma Foundation was discussed briefly.

In this news item you can see a short report of the visit (in Dutch).

Towards Peace of Mind – Annual Magazine

We are happy to share our annual magazine. In the 2018 magazine entitled “Towards Peace of Mind” lots of information about how we support the mission of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Mukwege. In his Panzi-hospital in Bukavu, East Congo, women and children victims of sexual violence are being treated physically and psychologically. WarTrauma  supports local nurses to give even better psychosocial support.

In addition we share the developments around our scientific journal Intervention which is now available online as open access magazine, and the experiences of the participants from our training in Sudan.

Follow this link to download the magazine Towards Peace of Mind or read it online here

The myth of the 1-day training: the effectiveness of psychosocial support capacity-building during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

Psychological First Aid trainings are too short to be effective for most people without knowledge about psychological support is one of the conclusions of the extensive scientific research carried out by WarTrauma in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In the aftermath of the ebola epidemic in Western Africa WarTrauma conducted the research together with Queen Margaret University (UK), University of Makeni (Sierra Leone) and LiCORMH (Liberia). The results have now been published in the open access journal Global Mental Health.

Codeveloped by WarTrauma, Psychological First Aid is a method which is used in conflict and disaster settings worldwide. The methodology aims to be an easy accessible training for non-professionals to provide access to psychological aid to as many people as possible. During the ebola epidemic in West Africa trainings in Psychological First Aid were given to medical personnel and local aid workers put their own lives at risk by taking care of ill and dead people.

In a randomised control trial in Sierra Leone and Liberia we conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 PFA trainers; 36 individuals who participated in PFA training; and 12 key informants involved in planning and implementing the PFA roll-out. Results showed that most trainers received only a short training, without any information on training skills. As a result their trainings were of varying quality. People who had been trained by them in general were good listeners, but their responses varied and were not according to the principles of effective psychological aid.

The abstract and the complete article you can read here: The myth of the 1-day training: the effectiveness of psychosocial support capacity-building during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The research project was funded by Elrha’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme, which aims to improve health outcomes by strengthening the evidence base for public health interventions in humanitarian crises. The R2HC programme is funded by the UK Government (DFID), the Wellcome Trust, and the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

MHPSS for Young Entrepreneurs in Jordan

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Jordan has allowed tens of thousands of refugees to stay in their country. Many of these refugees have been seeking employment or been setting up their own businesses. War Trauma supported SPARK to pilot a training for entrepreneurs to deal with their own stress and possible traumatic experiences of their employees.

SPARK is an international organization enabling access to higher education for the underprivileged and creating jobs through entrepreneurship support. With a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, SPARK realized the opportunities and challenges refugee streams in the region offer for businesses. Bringing new skills and capacity in the region offers an opportunity for local economies.

At the same time refugees fleeing war and conflict may suffer post traumatic stress symptoms which influence their functioning. Dealing with these challenges is important for Jordan employers as well as for the refugees themselves.

During the training in Jordan last February the focus was on the development of training material related to work ethics in general and with a psychological component. SPARK is preparing a 10 day business training course for about 400 participants and they want enter aspects of work ethics, staff care and psychosocial elements in their training.

In addition, Spark aims to support their own staff to provide trainings on work ethics, staff care and MHPSS.

Supporting Basic Mental Health Care in Burundi

“Many people here in Burundi spend their little money on traditional healers because they do not understand mental health problems,” according to a community worker in the Cibitoke region: “We will inform them that there are other ways to be helped. We will talk to them. Now we can do an evaluation and decide if they need to see a doctor.”

WarTrauma trainers spend four weeks of training in Burundi this spring. Following a training of trainers in 2018, we had the opportunity to train 2 more trainers and support the trainers of last year with a refresher to become more independent. The 12 trainers of 2018 together trained 150 people in three regions in February and March.

Burundi has faced many crises in the past half century. Since its independence in 1962 the country has been experiencing civil war, genocide and instability. Most Burundians at one point in their lives have been refugees or internally displaced. Substance abuse is a significant problem. As a result many Burundians are suffering from traumatic stress due to their experiences often in combination with extreme poverty.

At the same time the country has only one psychiatrist working in the public health field and due to poor infrastructure the one psychiatric hospital in the capital is out of reach for most. Most people instead turn to traditional healers for their mental health issues.

WarTrauma believes the training of the community workers and basic health staff will contribute to a decentralisation of care and to ensure more people have access to mental health care. In addition, improved understanding of mental health issues can support the rehabilitation into society of mentally ill people.

Relief for humanitarian workers in Afghanistan

Humanitarian workers in Afghanistan suffer from extreme amounts of stress. They are responding to humanitarian emergency situations and working with people in distress. At the same time, working with western humanitarian organisations, they are a target of insurgents throughout the country and at risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks.

WarTrauma supported a group of twenty humanitarian staff working in the joint response of the Dutch Relief Alliance through a five day training. The training was tailor made for the staff of Terre des Hommes to become master trainers who can train small groups of humanitarian staff elsewhere in the country.

Creating mutual support works best in groups with colleagues who work together on a daily basis. Such sessions will stimulate a better understanding of the different needs one’s co-workers can have in difficult circumstances. Awareness is an important part of natural resilience.

Due to the security situation in Afghanistan it is unsafe to organize large gatherings in many cities. Training local master trainers is therefore the most effective method to ensure a quick dissemination of basic skills and knowledge and important for sustainability.

During the sessions staff of other international organisations such as Cordaid, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Save the Children, WarChild, World Vision and ZOA, also participated. The master trainers of Terre des Hommes will lead the trainings for their organisations, which is a good example of the joint work under the Dutch Relief Alliance.

Intervention Special Issue: Mental health and psychosocial support in Afghanistan

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Afghanistan continues to face extraordinary challenges after almost 40 years of continuous armed conflict. Despite these difficulties, many Afghans have been working tirelessly to protect, rebuild, develop and maintain their national institutions. One such effort was the 2009 National Strategy for a Mentally Healthy Afghanistan which recognised the impact of conflict on mental health and psychosocial well-being. 

However, there was no university-level programme to educate Afghan counsellors. This meant the country has been incapable to respond to the large number of Afghans who come to mental health clinics in need of psychosocial support. Two years ago USAID contacted Hunter College City University of New York to partner with Kabul University and Herat University to create strong, effective, 21st-century counselling departments. During the courses faculty members soon discovered there was a shortage of texts on the state of mental health and ways to providing psychosocial support in the specific Afghan culture and its historic backgrounds.

To develop and support higher education in Afghanistan and prepare the next generation of mental health professionals, Intervention decided to dedicate this special issue to mental health in Afghanistan. Both to provide these texts and to provide a platform for the new graduates of both universities.

You can read the full special issue here.