"We are Drowning"

PU-AMI with USAID/OFDA commissioned an MHPSS research project from August 2021 – February 2022 to better understand the MHPSS needs in the Four Eastern Provinces of Afghanistan, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman and Nangarhar.

The research project aimed to understand; what the mental health conditions are, the symptoms of distress and the different resources used to cope with mental health and psychosocial distress. To better understand the cultural and social perception of mental health and psychosocial support in the four provinces, the Afghan Symptoms Checklist, WHO and UNHCR (2012) World Health Organization & United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2012 toolkit, Assessing Mental Health and Psychosocial Needs and Resources: Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings and the wellbeing categories designed by Bragin et al (2021) were used to inform the research tools.

The findings emphasised that the lived experience of people in these communities are highly stressful due to the long-term impact of years of conflict and war, erosion of infrastructure, the inability to meet basic needs as well as the insecurity and violence in the community and families. However family, religion and social and community networks are fundamental to the ability to cope with the day to day stresses.

Based on the research findings it is recommended when designing MHPSS programming to consider; what are the community networks and the traditional meaning of life as described through cultural and social norms that can be used to support mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Further there needs to be acknowledgement of the characteristics of continuous trauma in the four provinces of the study and how this can be addressed through humanitarian efforts.

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