Improving mental health care in humanitarian crises

Contributing chair:

  • Wendy Fenton @WendyFenton1 - Coordinator, Humanitarian Practice Network, ODI


  • Nour Kik - Policy and Advocacy Coordinator in the National Mental Health Programme, Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon
  • Natalya Kostandova - Program Coordinator, International Medical Corps (IMC)
  • Dr Alison Schafer - Technical Officer in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organisation
  • Dr Wietse Tol @wietsetol - Associate Professor in the Department of Mental Health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 


Humanitarian agencies are increasingly prioritising the provision of evidence-based mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for people affected by crises. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the prevalence of mild and moderate mental disorders can increase from a baseline of 10% to an estimated 15–20% in a humanitarian crisis. The prevalence of severe mental disorders can increase from 2–3% to 3–4%.

At the same time, unrest and conflict exacerbate the challenges in delivering high-quality mental health services. In the Central African Republic, instability and the presence of armed groups have forced people in need of MHPSS to travel further to receive care. Many are simply unable to obtain the support they need. In Iraq, where an estimated 20% of the population will suffer mental health problems at some point in their life, only 6% are able to access treatment.

What progress has been made in strengthening the evidence base on effective mental health and psychosocial support approaches in humanitarian contexts and translating this into good practice? What are the barriers to implementing MHPSS interventions for people affected by humanitarian crises? Drawing on articles in the latest issue of Humanitarian Exchange magazine and their own research and experience, panellists discuss the opportunities and challenges in providing mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies, and offer insights for academics and operational actors working together to strengthen the evidence base on which good practice depends.

This webinar was cross-posted with kind permission from Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

Humanitarian and conflict health
Policy and legislation
Human rights
Empowerment and service user involvement
All disorders
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