Interventions for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Moving Towards Consensus in Policy and Action?

  • Peter VentevogelEmail author


This chapter reviews international consensus guidance documents and tools for mental health and psychosocial support in ‘complex humanitarian emergencies’. It pays specific attention to adaptions of such policies and tools for refugees residing in low and middle income countries. The chapter argues that there are three competing paradigms in humanitarian mental health: the ‘trauma’ paradigm, the ‘psychosocial’ paradigm, and the ‘mental health in general health care’ paradigm. While these three different ways of looking at mental health problems in humanitarian settings are not easily reconciled on a conceptual level, significant progress has been made to forge pragmatic consensus among providers of humanitarian assistance. Pivotal in this emerging consensus are two major documents that will be introduced and discussed in this chapter: The Sphere Handbook and the IASC Guidelines for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergencies. Both have deeply influenced the ways mental health and psychosocial support in refugees are being conceptualized and organized, as will be illustrated in the last parts of the chapter that details the content of the Operational Guidance for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programming in Refugee Operations of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.


Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) Humanitarian emergencies Guidelines Refugees Low and middle income countries 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Health Section, Division of Programme Management and SupportUnited Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesGenevaSwitzerland

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