’A large part of the population needs mental health and psychosocial support’

“The war in Yemen is having a big impact on people’s mental health. According to a recent study, some 22% need help.” Esubalew Haile Wondimu, a native of Ethiopia, coordinated the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Programme in Yemen.

Shortages, refugees and lobbying

“The work in Yemen was complex and challenging. There are shortages of everything. And there are almost three million internally displaced people in Yemen, who are suffering amid the ongoing violence. Aid organisations need more funding and staff. As coordinator of the MHPSS working group, it was my job to support organisations so that MHPSS activities and services in Yemen can be scaled up. The working group is made up of representatives of UN organisations, local, national and international humanitarian organisations and relevant Yemeni government bodies. I mapped all activities, identified where there is scope for improving cooperation and lobbied for more personnel and resources. Using internationally recognised standards and best practices, I also helped partner organisations increase their theoretical and practical knowledge about mental healthcare.

Mental healthcare in the spotlight

If there’s one thing the coronavirus crisis has changed for the better, it’s recognition for mental healthcare. Worldwide, hundreds of millions of people’s lives are restricted by lockdowns or other pandemic control measures. It’s made people and governments aware of the importance of good mental health. Jobs, shelter, food and drink are essential, but so is a sound mind. I think this spotlight on mental health will directly impact on my work. Attention for MHPSS in a development context has already grown in recent years. The Netherlands, for instance, has advocated for some time now that MHPSS be integrated into the standard aid package.

Impact of DSS deployments

While it is important to measure the impact of such deployments using measurable indicators, it is also equally important to recognize the ‘invisible’ benefits. These are often difficult to measure, but are subjectively experienced by deployees upon bringing partners together to discuss a very important cross-cutting agenda for all, mental health and psychosocial support. One of the key functions was to discuss and help address issues around staff care and wellbeing, my personal experience was rewarding to see humanitarian workers and clusters leadership feeling supported by the very presence of an expert to establish and run MHPSS technical working group in Aden, Yemen. I believe the investment made through DSS mechanism is worth much more than what many people think.

This story previously appeared on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: ’A large part of the population needs mental health and psychosocial support’ | Voices from the field | Government.nl