Operational considerations for multisectoral mental health and psychosocial support programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic

People all over the world are facing severe impacts on their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Psychological distress is widespread among large segments of the populations, due to the immediate effects of the virus on health, due to the consequences of measures to contain the spread, such as physical isolation and suspension of services, and due to the worries about loss of livelihoods and education. The direct effects of the pandemic are compounded by the effects of ongoing humanitarian emergencies and sociopolitical and economic fragility in countries hosting vulnerable populations. The humanitarian community through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee has therefore asked for dedicated attentions and resource mobilization for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) within the Global Humanitarian Appeal for the COVID-19 response.

In March 2020 the IASC Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support uniting 57 humanitarian organizations as member issued the Interim Briefing Note Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects of COVID-19 Outbreak. This document has proven to be very useful in the response and has till now been translated in 24 languages. It covers a set of recommended activities as well as messages for different target groups.

The current document is an annex to the Interim Briefing Note and is meant to support the MHPSS operational response within the various sectors of humanitarian work. Approaches and interventions to MHPSS are not confined to one sector, but need to be integrated within many existing sectors and clusters.This document contains a wealth of operational information and practical approaches that can be used for humanitarian programming in health, SGBV, community-based protection, nutrition, camp management and camp coordination.

It contains five sections:

Adapting psychological first aid for the COVID-19 context
Continuation of comprehensive and clinical MHPSS care in humanitarian settings during the COVID-19 pandemic
Mental health and psychosocial support considerations for children, adolescents and families during the COVID-19 response
Considerations for developing MHPSS responses to the COVID-19 pandemic for older adults
Addressing substance use and addictive behaviours during the COVID-19 outbreak
The document contains many references to other documents that can be accessed through hyperlinks. Make sure that you consult the latest version of those documents, since knowledge around COVID-19 is developing rapidly. For guidance on health aspects of the pandemic, see the Country and Technical Guidance on Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the website of the World Health Organization.

We hope the document will boost the inclusion of mental health and psychosocial support within the whole humanitarian response.

This is not a luxury or an add-on but is essential to make the global response to COVID-19 a success.

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