A call for greater conceptual clarity in the field of mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings

When the Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) adopted the composite term mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and published its guidelines for MHPSS in emergency settings in 2007, it aimed to build consensus and strengthen coordination among relevant humanitarian actors. The term MHPSS offered an inclusive tent by welcoming the different terminologies, explanatory models and intervention methods of diverse actors across several humanitarian sectors (e.g., health, protection, education, nutrition). Since its introduction, the term has become well-established within the global humanitarian system. However, it has also been critiqued for papering over substantive differences in the intervention priorities and conceptual frameworks that inform the wide range of interventions described as MHPSS. Our aims are to clarify those conceptual frameworks, to argue for their essential complementarity and to illustrate the perils of failing to adequately consider the causal models and theories of change that underlie our interventions.

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