UNHCR's approach to mental health and psycho-social support in displacement

Addressing mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) needs is an integral part of UNHCR’s approach to the protection of refugees and other displaced people. Experiences of displacement due to armed conflict, persecution, or disasters put significant psychological and social stress on individuals, families and communities. People not only experience atrocities prior to or during flight, their living conditions once they have reached safety can also impose significant stress and hardship. Moreover, people with preexisting mental health conditions often face major protection risks during forced displacement.

In many settings, specialized mental health professionals are not present, especially for children and adolescents. If at all available, they often reach only a small proportion of the people who need services.

During emergency response and in situations of protracted displacement it is therefore vital that access to quality MHPSS services is increased. This is crucial for peoples’ resilience and their ability to rebuild their lives with dignity and independence. Refugees are remarkably resilient if given the right opportunities and support. Many concerns can be best addressed within communities themselves, so in many refugee settings UNHCR works with refugee community outreach volunteers who support their own communities and help them navigate to appropriate services and foster social cohesion and mutual support.

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