Cover Image
close this bookMental Health in Emergencies (WHO - OMS, 2003, 7 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBackground
View the documentGeneral principles
Open this folder and view contentsIntervention strategies for health officials in the field
View the documentAbove interventions are suggested for implementation in synergy with ongoing mental health system development priorities:
View the documentWHO resource materials
View the documentBackcover

Background

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations agency responsible for action to attain the highest possible level of health for all people. Within WHO, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence provides leadership and guidance to close the gap between what is needed and what is currently available to reduce the burden of mental disorders and to promote mental health.

This document summarises the present position of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence on assisting populations exposed to extreme stressors, such as refugees, internally displaced persons, disaster survivors and terrorism-, war- or genocide-exposed populations. WHO recognises that the number of persons exposed to extreme stressors is large and that exposure to extreme stressors is a risk factor for mental health and social problems. Principles and strategies described here are primarily for application in resource-poor countries, where most populations exposed to disasters and war live. The mental health and well-being of humanitarian aid workers also warrant attention, but their needs are not addressed in this document.

In this document the term social intervention is used for interventions that primarily aim to have social effects, and the term psychological intervention is used for interventions that primarily aim to have psychological effects. It is acknowledged that social interventions have secondary psychological effects and that psychological interventions have secondary social effects as the term psychosocial suggests. WHO in its constitution defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Using this definition of health as an anchor point, this statement covers the Department's current position regarding the mental and social aspects of health of populations exposed to extreme stressors.

Our objectives, with respect to the mental and social aspects of health of populations exposed to extreme stressors are:

1. to be a resource in terms of technical advice for field activities by governmental, nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations in coordination with the WHO Department of Emergency and Humanitarian Action.

2. to provide leadership and guidance to improve quality of interventions in the field.

3. to facilitate the generation of an evidence base for field activities and policy at community and health system level.