Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

Disasters and emergencies take an immense toll not only on people’s physical health, but on their mental health and wellbeing too. Addressing global mental health and psychosocial needs is a vital part of the IFRC’s work supporting healthy communities.

Our 192 National Societies worldwide provide a wide variety of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services and programmes. These range from basic psychological first aid through to specialised mental health care.

Armed conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies often expose people to extremely distressing events. People lose loved ones, homes and livelihoods. Many face severe violations of human dignity, such as torture and sexual violence.

Left untreated, these hidden wounds can cause serious and long-term harm to individuals, families, communities, and entire societies.

Mental health and psychosocial support programmes are some of the least expensive activities in humanitarian response. But they can have a priceless impact on the lives of people who need them, particularly when delivered early after a disaster strikes.

What we do

Indonesian Red Cross volunteers lead a psychosocial support session with people affected by an earthquake and resulting tsunami in Central Sulawesi. Support includes morning exercise sessions and readings of the Quran.

Indonesian Red Cross volunteers lead a psychosocial support session with people affected by an earthquake and resulting tsunami in Central Sulawesi. Support includes morning exercise sessions and readings of the Quran.

Photo: IFRC/Kathy Mueller

Across our network, Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers help people cope, rebuild their lives and thrive again in the wake of emergencies. Examples of our mental health and psychosocial work include:

  • Setting up child friendly spaces to support children’s mental health through safe play 
  • Running dedicated phone lines and help points for people on the move who need a friendly ear
  • Community engagement to promote positive mental wellbeing and address the stigma often surrounding mental health conditions
  • Programmes to help vulnerable groups develop social and emotional skills so they can support one another

In low- and middle-income countries where most humanitarian crises occur, access to mental health and social support services can be very limited. Investing in the work of local volunteers is therefore vital to ensuring everyone, everywhere can access reliable mental health and psychosocial support.

Scroll down to learn more or contact psychosocial.centre@ifrc.org for more information.

Watch: mental health videos

Key MHPSS documents

14/10/2020

pdf (430.01 KB)

Movement policy on addressing mental health and psychosocial need...

14/10/2020 | pdf (430.01 KB)

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22/06/2021

pdf (1.96 MB)

Mental Health Matters: Addressing mental health and psychosocial ...

22/06/2021 | pdf (1.96 MB)

Read more