Mental Health Issues In Complex Humanitarian Emergency (How To Deal With Them)

Addressing mental health is essential as it contributes to the stability of other health issues. Mental health issues from complex humanitarian emergencies (CHEs) are rated to be a significant blow to any society.

Emergency response from psychologists' primary, social, and clinical care is needed to address these mental health issues. Community interventions are also required to assist in the first aid administration during and after the crisis. All these measures have to be integrated to offer a far-reaching solution.

CHEs cause significant harm to the victims' mental stability, leading to grief, stress, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. All these issues need to be addressed appropriately. Read this article for more information on how to deal with mental health issues in CHEs.

Mental Health Issues In Complex Humanitarian Emergency

What are Complex Humanitarian Emergencies?

Complex humanitarian emergencies are the major human crisis brought about by violence between groups, political instability, social imbalances, and existing poverty conditions.

They are referred to as complex as their impacts are far-reaching, affecting all age groups, with the old aged and the minor children being hit the hardest. These CHEs disrupt society's everyday life, leaving them stranded and others evacuated from their homes.

Some of the emergencies are human-instigated between two or more groups. Others are climate and weather-related such as poverty and famine. According to WHO, these emergencies cause a significant threat to the mental health stability of the victims.

Therefore, it is necessary to come up with ways of dealing with mental health issues resulting from CHEs. To better understand how to deal with these issues, let's look at the various mental health issues caused by CHEs.

Mental Health Issues in Complex Humanitarian Emergency

Mental health problems are a broad field that encompasses pre-existing, emergency-instigated, humanitarian-induced, and post-crisis problems.

Pre-existing mental health problems include but are not limited to alcohol and drug substance abuse and mental disorders ranging from depression to schizophrenia. These problems worsen after an emergency crisis and are termed the worst-case scenarios with hard-hitting impacts.

Likewise, emergency-instigated mental health problems include grief, stress, anxiety, and depression. At times, alcohol and drug substance abuse become rampant in disparate groups of men and young boys. These problems are seen during and more significant after a crisis.

On the other hand, humanitarian-induced mental health issues refer to the problems resulting from the relationship between the victims. Information sharing of any help of relief food and medicine is very vital. Concealing such information from some people leaves them suffering from mental stress.

Long after the crisis, affected groups start to develop post-crisis mental health conditions from what they went through. Those who were tortured tend to create mental fear towards specific issues. Some are seen to develop these complications ten years after the crisis.

Let's see how best we can address these issues.

What would you do to address mental health issues in a complex humanitarian emergency?

If you happen to be a survivor of CHEs or one willing to assist victims with mental health issues, here are ways to help address the problems appropriately. We shall discuss them in the following categories.

  1. Pre-existing mental health problems
  2. Emergency-instigated mental health problems
  3. Humanitarian-induced mental health problems
  4. post-crisis mental health problems

1.     How to address pre-existing mental health problems

These problems need long-term intervention measures since they are always present before a crisis. The interventions could be done by:

  • Community self-help groups

The community is in the initial stage of addressing pre-existing mental issues as it understands its inhabitants better than any foreigners.

These groups act as social support systems where the community launches projects to induct the vulnerable and mentally affected persons. People battling with alcohol and drug substance abuse are incorporated into the projects.

By the end of the activities, those with pre-existing mental issues get the necessary help and advice by interacting with others.

  • Psychological assistance

This refers to medical assistance by qualified psychologists. The service might include rehabilitation for the worst cases. Most victims who don't get help through community groups stand to benefit from psychological assistance.

Teachers, government officials, and volunteers can also be trained to administer the psychological help needed. The aim is to keep interacting with mentally ill people daily at a cheaper cost.

Since the attempts are aimed at tackling pre-crisis issues, the community is stable, and thus possible to apply for community-based assistance.

2.     How to address emergency-instigated mental health problems

After CHEs, victims undergo a difficult phase where their social, economic, and political life is disrupted. Some are displaced amid harsh weather conditions.

In violence and political instabilities, lives and property are lost, and families are separated. Such impacts significantly on the victims' mental well-being, forcing them into grief, depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse.

So these are the ways emergency-instigated mental health problems could be addressed through.

  • Basic clinical care

There is little to be done in this critical and hostile environment. However, the first intervention is to try and save any life in the crisis. After saving a life, one should result in physical treatment to ensure a stable community.

Once the victims are stable, start psychological assistance to help them recover mentally. Since some are affected by grief and loss, carefully walk them through the grieving process and allow them time to heal.

  • Counseling and guidance

This is a long-term intervention to protect the after-crisis victims from falling deep into depression. They must be guided on how to grieve their loss as they cope with a new life.

It is essential to facilitate counseling sessions that offer a platform for the healing process.

  • Promoting and protecting mental health rights

After providing essential clinical assistance, promote and protect the rights of mentally affected people. They need to feel safe and acknowledged. Being at peace will significantly increase their chances of recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The aim is to make them feel safer than when in a humanitarian emergency crisis.

3.     How to address humanitarian-induced mental health problems

Mental health issues from the humanitarian sector are a form of biased humanitarian efforts meant to help the victims. Some victims get assistance, while others are isolated. This bleeds anxiety and stress that lead to mental health problems. Hence, some actions need to be undertaken to address this, such as

  • Links and referral intervention mechanisms

The aim is to ensure the proper flow of information to the affected people and areas. They all need to have access to relief food and medical assistance to curb mental issues.

Create a link between government agencies, NGOs, community-based systems, and mental health providers. This will ensure the flow of information to the right group at the right time. Each group will have access to vital information.

  • Group interpersonal therapy

To harness the few available resources amid a crisis, there is a need to establish community therapy groups to bring people together, ensuring no one is left out.

In these groups, people can share and exchange information about the available humanitarian assistance. They also share their adversaries and problems, allowing them to endure mental suffering.

4.     How to address post-crisis mental health problems

Even though the CHEs are over and there is a stable and peaceful environment, the affected victims live in fear, anxiety, and grief from their loss.

This group now needs extra care to help them rebuild their lives and move on. They need the following assistance.

  • Relief and emergency services

To start them off, they need to be provided with relief food, water, shelter, and medical support. Thus, to rebuild their lives and avoid deep depression, they need to be supported till they start off again.

Likewise, war victims should be given medical assistance to avoid further losses from post-crisis injuries. Medical camps should be pitched in these areas to handle any rising issues.

The new lifestyle drastically affects their mental health as they watched their lives burn down into ashes. Therefore, it would be best to relocate the survivors.

  • Psychological First Aid (PFA)

Psychological help is significant to victims suffering from acute distress resulting from a war crisis. The aim is to stop any further mental damage to the affected people.

Therefore, the existing medical practitioner and any community-based support groups should make stress-relieving medicine and best practices available.

  • Community-based intervention projects

After the emergency crisis, the community needs to be engaged so that people don’t result in alcohol and drug substance abuse.

One of the practical projects includes having community cultural programs. They can also engage in a green economy to regain a healthy environment, such as tree planting.

All these projects should be aimed at mental health recovery. Among the above interventions, some are basic, while others are clinical and psychological. Use any of the above to deal with the prevailing situation.


Mental health is a vital aspect of our lives. There is a need to protect the mental stability of people affected by the complex humanitarian emergency. The stress, anxiety, depression, and grief from loss can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions if not attended to.

Consequently, psychological assistance and essential clinical interventions are necessary to curb mental health issues. Thus, community-based projects should be supported to reduce alcohol and drug substance abuse.

For extreme impacts on mental health, victims should be given counseling to walk them through the journey of recovery.

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