What is the Mental Health Integration Toolkit and How to Use it - Learn here!
This blog was written by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the toolkit Peter Ventevogel (UNHCR), Sarah Harrison (IFRC/Co-chair of IASC MHPSS Reference Group), Fahmy Hanna (WHO/ Co-chair of IASC MHPSS Reference Group), Zeinab Hijazi (UNICEF), Inka Weissbecker & Ashley Leichner (International Medical Corps). The role of the TAG is to provide input and advice to ensure the usefulness, feasibility and quality of the toolkit and its associated content. The TAG worked together for two years through all phases of toolkit development and incorporated relevant global evidence, emerging innovations and field experiences. The TAG also ensured that the toolkit framework and content is coordinated, supportive and complimentary to the work being carried out by other agencies, including WHO and UNHCR.
For this blog, we asked questions to members of the TAG in order to learn more about the role they envision the Mental Health Integration Toolkit will play for the future of mental health integration in humanitarian settings, how it works to close gaps in mental health service delivery and how the Toolkit can be utilized by the different target audiences at different stages of set up.
1. What role do you envision the Toolkit playing for the future of mental health integration in humanitarian settings and specifically how does it support closing gaps in mental health service delivery?
The Toolkit is a unique repository of guidance, resources and tools. Crucially it includes operational knowledge and practical country-level examples of how to integrate and monitor mental health into general healthcare service delivery in humanitarian settings. Its web-based format enables the Toolkit to be a living, interactive website, with tools amended, added to and deleted as this area develops over time. The hosting of the Toolkit on the Mental Health Innovation Network (MHIN) enables the wider dissemination of the Toolkit to MHPSS and health actors operating in humanitarian settings. MHIN also elevates the toolkit’s profile within the academic community, which may result in more research in this area – for example, monitoring the impact of mental health into health integration at the system level and in terms of patient outcomes.
2. The Toolkit identifies a primary audience (Implementing Agencies) and two additional audiences (Governments and Donors). How do you envision the resources and information provided by the Toolkit can be beneficial to each of the aforementioned groups?
The integration of mental health into general health care is an essential strategy, guided by WHO, to scale up mental health services in countries with limited formal resources for mental health. UNHCR, implementing partners like International Medical Corps and many others have adopted this strategy. There is often no alternative. We hope the Toolkit will help partner organizations to plan for the different steps that are required for successful integration. The Toolkit makes it very clear that mental health integration is not a single activity, single training or one-time event, but rather a long process that includes various stakeholders, must be advocated for and critically, should be a focus of all health programs in humanitarian settings. We hope that donors and government and other policy makers will be able to use the toolkit when they have to evaluate proposals and support programs with the aim of bringing good quality mental health services to people and communities in need. It is of critical importance that decision makers realize that integration of mental health in general health is ‘doable’.
It is of critical importance that decision makers realize that integration of mental health in general health is ‘doable’.
3. What was the main role of TAG members in the conceptualization and development of the toolkit and why was this consultative process important?
This consultative process was important because we were able to benefit from expertise across the key agencies involved in this work. Coming to consensus about the content and design of the toolkit also helped us ensure that it does not reflect the experience or opinion of just one organization but is more broadly applicable and has a strong foundation. Having key TAG members involved from the start provides an added benefit of having broad dissemination and use of the Toolkit.
4. Do you have any advice or suggestions for users interested in accessing your Toolkit for the purposes of integration?
We would suggest reading through all components of the Toolkit, and then to think about what steps and components are needed to ensure a successful program. Adaptation to the local context is also important while keeping with some of the key principles such as the importance of supervision and mentorship to build skills and considering the broader health system.
5. The toolkit includes easy to follow steps and associated resources, and guides audiences to systematically follow these steps in their mental health integration programming. It may be that some users accessing the toolkit are in different phases of their programming, either planning a project, carrying out training, or already providing services through trained providers- how can this toolkit be utilized by these audiences that are in different stages of program set up and implementation, and who may be looking for specific guidance relevant to their specific program needs?
The design of the Toolkit was really important to us, we really thought it through to make it attractive and user-friendly. We worked with an amazing communication specialist, Bilal Lezeik, to design the framework and everything fell into place around that critical framework. We hope this will enable different types of users to easily trace what they need in order to plan and implement mental health integration programs. What we really like is that different source materials are included within the Toolkit, such as guidance notes, practical examples, and key background papers. This will greatly enhance the utility and impact of the Toolkit.
It’s really important to remember that every integration process will be unique. The core steps and cross cutting components are laid out in such a way that an agency using the Toolkit, can make the necessary adaptation & contextualization based on the different existing capacities and human resources, different systems and contexts, cultural and language considerations, as well as the specific needs and priorities that guide design and implementation of programming.
Additionally, the Toolkit can be useful whether you’ve just started to plan your mental health integration program and need resources on carrying out a situational analysis and needs assessment (step 1), or even if you’re well into implementation and seek to strengthen your existing mental health services through accessing examples of clinical forms & job aids for clinicians (step 3), or apply sustainability measures by navigating to the tools included in the cross-component sustainability.
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