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Member Care Associates

Resources for Good Practice
Update September 2013

Member Care in Mission/Aid

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

Stay updated with key member care resources for your work in mission/aid.
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This month we present four recent resources for "mental health and psychosocial support" (MHPSS). The first set of MHPSS resources address staff care in the humanitarian/health sectors. The second set of MHPSS resources adress humanity care in emergency and post-emergency settings. We encourage you to download these publications, read them (at least the Executive Summaries) discuss them, and apply them.

These resources are very relevant for member care as they help us to understand:
--the approaches to staff support/safety being used in the humanitarian/health sectors (including challenges and gaps in staff care);
--the neglected mental health needs in many settings where mission/aid workers live and provide services (including local and national staff);
--the opportunities for greater involvement in health/development for member care/mental health professionals (including mission/aid workers);
--the need to foster a movement for "mental health as mission" on behalf of some of the must vulnerable people (including unreached peoples).

For more information and to stay current with MHPSS,
visit MHPSS Network's website at:

Warm greetings from Geneva,
Kelly and Michèle O’Donnell


Staff Care
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

 Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for humanitarian staff, is often referred to as staff welfare, care, or well-being. MHPSS includes institutional responses intended to mitigate distress and enhance resilience of staff in response to stressors encountered during the course of providing humanitarian assistance.
(UNHCR’s MHPSS for Staff, 2013, p. 9)

Photo courtesy Ahmad Mahmoud/IRIN (March 2013).
A Somali government soldier ouside the remains of Mogadishu cathedral.


Health Care in Danger; Making the Case--International Committee of the Red Cross (2011). “In September [2009] of the same year, soldiers entered the Ghazi Mohammed Khan Hospital in the Wardak province of Afghanistan late one night, searching for a wounded enemy combatant. Unsuccessful in their search, they rounded up the staff and ordered them to report the presence of “enemy fighters” seeking treatment. When the staff refused, citing medical ethics, the soldiers threatened them at gunpoint, saying they would be killed if they did not comply. Several members of the staff quit their jobs after this incident, too afraid to return to work….In 2008, the ICRC launched a study to look at how violence affects the delivery of health care in 16 countries where it is operational…But while the statistics paint a bleak picture of the widespread nature of the attacks on patients, health-care workers and facilities, and on medical vehicles, they fall short of capturing the full scope of the problem, particularly in areas inaccessible to aid organizations and reporters..." (quoted from the Introduction, p. 4)

[Note: Staff care/safety in this publication is mingled with the broader area of humanitarian/health care (the focus on staff begins on page 14). We believe that this mingling of staff care and humanitarian/health care can also increase the understanding/acceptability of member care among mission/aid organizations and donors.]
UNHCR's Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Staff--United Nations Refugee Agency (July 2013). “Humanitarian work is risky business. Recent research suggests humanitarians face numerous mental health and psychosocial challenges, including increased risk for depression, anxiety and burnout. Although historically most staff care services have focused on intervention for acute stressors, i.e. in the aftermath of direct exposure to potentially traumatic events such as a bombing or sexual assault, in recent years it has become clear that chronic stress, often a result of environmental stressors, can be just as debilitating. Humanitarian agencies are increasingly concerned about the potential impact of staff stress on effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery.” (opening from the Executive Summary)


Humanity Care
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support 

The term MHPSS – mental health and psychosocial support – was introduced [in 2007] and is now widely used to describe the range of activities that are used to treat mental disorders and to improve the well-being of individuals and communities in their conflict or disaster affected environments. This range of activities includes approaches designed to address the psychological and social impacts of conflict and displacement.
(UNHCR’s MHPSS for Persons of Concern, 2013, p. 7)

Photo courtesy Zahra Moloo/IRIN (Tayuri, Libya)
It is the cover photo used in the publication below.


Building Back Better: Sustainable Mental Health Care After Emergencies--World Health Organization (August 2013). “Emergencies, in spite of their tragic nature and adverse effects on mental health, are also unparalleled opportunities to improve the lives of large numbers of people through mental health reform. This [publication] is important because mental health is crucial to the overall well-being, functioning, and resilience of individuals, societies, and countries recovering from natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other hazards. [It] raises awareness about this type of opportunity, and describes how this was achieved in 10 diverse emergency-affected areas. Lessons learnt and key overlapping practices emerging from these experiences are summarized. By publishing this report, the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to ensure that people faced with emergencies do not miss the opportunity for mental health reform and development.” (opening from the Executive Summary)
UNHCR's Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Persons of Concern--United Nations Refugee Agency (June 2013). “Images of individuals and families crossing borders to find safety, after having witnessed violence and destruction, leaving possessions and family members behind, have come to represent the human impact of conflict and disaster. Threats to well-being due to these experiences and subsequent challenges are increasingly understood. Conflict and displacement brings about a range of stressors and has the potential to negatively impact the mental health and well-being of everyone affected. These impacts–many and varied–have been observed and studied by many humanitarian workers, researchers and policy-makers globally. Recognising these impacts, the humanitarian community has turned its attention to addressing them and in doing so the field of mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian operations has developed substantially over the past years, culminating in the Inter-agency Standing Committee [IASC] Guidelines in 2007.” (opening from the Executive Summary)

Final Thoughts
Human progress never rolls on the wheels of inevitability; it comes about by the tireless efforts of [people] willing to be co-workers with God; and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.
Martin Luther King Jr., 1963


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