Prehospital and Disaster Medicine

Original Research

Transitioning Mental Health & Psychosocial Support: From Short-Term Emergency to Sustainable Post-Disaster Development. Humanitarian Action Summit 2011

P.P. Patela1, J. Russella2, K. Alldena3 c1, T.S. Betancourta4, P. Boltona5, A. Galappattia6, Z. Hijazia7, K. Johnsona8, L. Jonesa9, L. Kadisa10, K. Learya11, I. Weissbeckera12 and J. Nakkua13

a1 Health & Disability Advocates, Chicago, Illinois USA

a2 Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

a3 Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire USA

a4 Harvard School of Public Health, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Boston, Massachusetts USA

a5 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland USA

a6 The Good Practice Group, Colombo, Sri Lanka; Social Policy and Research Centre, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

a7 International Medical Corps, Middle East Programs, Beirut, Lebanon

a8 Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

a9 Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts USA Developmental Psychiatry Section, Cambridge University, UK

a10 Carmel Institute for Family Business, Carmel, California USA

a11 Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, Massachusetts USA

a12 International Medical Corps, Washington DC USA

a13 Department of Psychiatry, Makerere University College of Health Sciences; Butabika Referral & Teaching Hospital, Kampala, Uganda


Introduction: The Working Group (WG) on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support participated in its second Humanitarian Action Summit in 2011. This year, the WG chose to focus on a new goal: reviewing practice related to transitioning mental health and psychosocial support programs from the emergency phase to long-term development. The Working Group's findings draw on a review of relevant literature as well as case examples.

Objectives: The objective of the Working Group was to identify factors that promote or hinder the long term sustainability of emergency mental health and psychosocial interventions in crisis and conflict, and to provide recommendations for transitioning such programs from relief to development.

Methods: The Working Group (WG) conducted a review of relevant literature and collected case examples based on experiences and observations of working group members in implementing mental and psychosocial programming in the field. The WG focused on reviewing literature on mental health and psychosocial programs and interventions that were established in conflict, disaster, protracted crisis settings, or transition from acute phase to development phase. The WG utilized case examples from programs in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Sierra Leone, Aceh (Indonesia), Sri Lanka, and New Orleans (United States).

Results: The WG identified five key thematic areas that should be addressed in order to successfully transition lasting and effective mental health and psychosocial programs from emergency settings to the development phase. The five areas identified were as follows: Government and Policy, Human Resources and Training, Programming and Services, Research and Monitoring, and Finance.

Conclusions: The group identified several recommendations for each thematic area, which were generated from key lessons learned by working group members through implementing mental health and psychosocial support programs in a variety of settings, some successfully sustained and some that were not.

(Online publication March 19 2012)


c1 Corresponding Author: Kathleen Allden, MD Health Care and Rehabilitation Services 49 School Street Hartford, VT 05049 USA E-mail: