Call to Action this #WorldMentalHealthDay: Mental Health Integration in Humanitarian Settings

Over two years ago, International Medical Corps’ participated in the Innovation Fair, an event intended to highlight to world financial leaders that it is possible to deliver effective and affordable mental health care even in low-resource settings (co-hosted by the World Bank and World Health Organization and co-organized by MHIN). At the fair, the International Medical Corps specifically focused on a step-by-step process for setting up sustainable integration of quality mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services into primary healthcare in the Middle East.

World Mental Health Day will be taking place this October 10th with a theme of ‘Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World’. Many will congregate this week at the world’s first global ministerial mental health summit in London to bring together the world’s political leaders, innovators, policy makers and civil society to share the most effective approaches to mental health and psychosocial support, with a specific focus on children and young people. The Summit will also host the launch of the landmark Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development, and secure the agreement of a political declaration to drive international action on mental health. The Young Leaders for the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development will also launch the same day and is focused on bringing the voices of young people to the front of the global mental health agenda.

The World Health Organization is also hosting this year’s mhGAP Forum after the summit on 11-12 October in Geneva and will provide an opportunity for diverse stakeholders to discuss progress on WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020 in countries. It seems the call to action is greater than ever and engagement around global mental health continues to indicate that we need more co-operation and funding for sustainable strengthening of integrated mental health and better solutions for access to quality mental health care which reach the most vulnerable in communities across the world. 

"Mental Health Integration is not an event, it is a stepwise, long-term process which takes time and varies depending on the context and availability of resources."

International Medical Corps recently launched a Toolkit for the Integration of Mental Health into General Healthcare in Humanitarian Settings as one such solution. After developing the Toolkit for two years with key stakeholders like WHO, UNHCR, IASC MHPSS Reference Group Co-chairs, the Toolkit has been launched in many countries and is hosted by Mental Health Innovation Network and funded by USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. During one of the recent launches, a participant asked, “Is this toolkit different than WHO’s mhGAP and which one do we use?” The easy answer is that this Toolkit was developed in collaboration with WHO and includes guidance that follows mhGAP and includes mhGAP resources, especially in Step 2: Build Capacity of General Healthcare Workers. But this makes us realize that we cannot look for simple answers to the complex problem which entangles lack of resources, gaps in capacity, health systems constraints and political will. The more complex, yet practical answer is that the mental health integration is not an event, it is a stepwise, long-term process which takes time and varies depending on the context and available resources. While the global mental health field has sometimes had a narrow definition of mental health integration, referring mostly to the training of general health care workers, the foundation of the Toolkit is an expanded definition. The toolkit includes mhGAP and more in the step on capacity building, but it takes a broader view of mental health integration, providing a framework to support program funders, planners and implementers in how to advocate for, manage and sustain mental health integration programs within varying context. The Toolkit aims to go beyond capacity building, and provides guidance and resources on all areas key to mental health integration: 

Step 1. Assess & Plan for Mental Health Integration

Step 2. Build Capacity of General Healthcare Workers

Step 3. Strengthen Mental Health Services and Systems

Cross Cutting Component. Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability & Learning

Cross Cutting Component. Advocate, Coordinate & Network

Cross Cutting Component. Sustain Mental Health Services

We hope that more solutions, collaborations and funding of good ideas continue to be priorities within the field of global mental health, as people living with treatable mental health conditions and their families and friends, need access to services and support as soon as possible.

Image credit: International Medical Corps

Middle East
North America
Central America and the Caribbean
South America
Humanitarian and conflict health
Policy and legislation
Empowerment and service user involvement
Prevention and promotion
Detection and diagnosis
Treatment, care and rehabilitation
All disorders
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