Spirituality and psychosocial work in emergencies: four commentaries and a response

Onyango, G. R., Paratharayil, M., van den Berg, S., Reiffers, R., Snider, L., & Erikson, C. (2011). Spirituality and psychosocial work in emergencies: four commentaries and a response. Intervention, 9(1), 61-73.

The commentaries on the next few pages relate to the article ‘Spirituality and mental health in humanitarian contexts: an exploration based on World Vision's Haiti earthquake response’ by Alison Schafer on page 121–130 of issue 8.2 of Intervention (2010). The author uses the experiences in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake to substantiate her argument that nongovernmental organisations do not have a clear set of interventions to address the spiritual needs of an affected population, in conjunction with their mental health and psychosocial support needs. The author considers this a gap, given the evidence that spirituality can have beneficial effects on mental wellbeing, and is often an important resource for both coping and coming to terms with the consequences of events. However, as mentioned in the editorial of issue 8.2, blurring the line between psychosocial support and ‘spiritual support’ could lead to promoting specific religious values to distressed populations, and may even be seen as proselytising of vulnerable groups. The dilemma surrounding this uneasy relationship between religion and psychosocial work definitely warrants further exploration and discussion.

This issue, therefore, contains four commentaries responding to the issues raised in Schafer's article.

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