“Looking back, I now understand how timely the deployment was”

 Armenia suffered from the escalation of conflicts in Nagorno Karabakh in September 2020. As a result, there was a high number of displaced people, deaths and injuries amongst civilians and soldiers. This, and the peak in COVID-19 infections and deaths resulted in a high stress level amongst the affected population. It was clear that Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) was a priority need. Different partners across working groups engaged in developing and scaling up actions. The need to have a coordinated approach on MHPSS activities in the country with a focus on technical aspects was also high. To make this happen, an MHPSS Technical Working Group (TWG) was much needed.

Improving people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being

The Dutch Surge Support programme deployed me as an MHPSS TWG co-coordinator. My main goal was to bring different actors together working in MHPSS. We had to plan, establish and deliver a coordinated and effective multi-sectoral emergency response. We aimed to protect and improve people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being. I arrived in Armenia on 11 December 2020, and we had our first meeting on 24 December. The need for help was so high that people were ready to meet even this close to the holidays. Looking back, I now understand how timely the deployment was. I arrived right when the Inter-Agency Response Plan was being drafted. This included the response to the MHPSS needs of the affected population by the government. There was no other MHPSS dedicated person in the UN agencies and most of the INGOs. The national partners’ response was not coordinated. So I immediately got involved in the response on different levels. Our partners much appreciated this technical support.

As the co-coordinator of the TWG on MHPSS, I identified priorities and developed a working plan. With the support of WHO and UNICEF, we managed to involve representatives from 4 Ministries in the group. Heads of relevant professional associations and mental health departments from national universities and other international and national stakeholders also joined the group. To me, the Armenian TWG on MHPSS is a ‘dream team’ that shares its assessments and service mappings. The team also participates in the development of MHPSS recommendations, presents their projects and does cross-referrals. I am working on capacity building activities, and I share information on IASC, WHO, UNICEF guidance documents to support MHPSS activities in the field.

Continuing support

Now that strong working relationships have been established, the requests for my support in planning or integrating MHPSS into other TWG member activities are increasing. The country is currently in the stage of a protracted emergency. In many activities that we do, we focus on mid- and long-term development goals. Recently, some actors working in the development projects have also been involved in MHPSS activities and have received our technical support.”