On September 14, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)—a broad
coalition of 26 United Nations (U.N.) and non-U.N. agencies—released new
guidelines that identify how different approaches to mental health and
psychosocial support can complement one another in the midst of
Emergency responders sometimes view the mental health and psychosocial
well-being of communities undergoing disasters or conflicts as the sole
responsibility of psychiatrists and psychologists. The IASC Guidelines on
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, however,
seeks to dispel that belief by emphasizing that protecting and promoting
mental health and psychosocial well-being are the responsibilities of all
humanitarian agencies and workers.
The IASC committee established the guidelines to focus on social
interventions, with emphasis on the utilization of local resources, such as
teachers, health workers, healers, and women's groups. Additionally, the
guidelines provide direction on strengthening social networks and building on
existing ways in which community members deal with distress in their lives.
Such strategies include attention to protection and care of people with severe
mental disorders and severe trauma-induced disorders, as well as access to"
psychological first aid" for those in acute distress.
The guidelines will be available in various languages and posted at<www.humanitarianinfo.org/iasc/content/products/default.asp>.▪