MHPSS is important for aid workers

Humanitarians are at the heart of aid work. Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) is often discussed as a need for the vulnerable populations served by Humanitarians, but less attention is paid to the impact this work has on humanitarian worker. Although staff self-care does not often get the attention it deserves, when reports or articles are published, they often point to the negative impact that a lack of emotional well-being strategies has on workers.

Project MIRACLE: Increasing empathy among psychosocial support staff working with refugees through brief training in motivational interviewing

Potocky & Guskovict, Intervention 2018

"Motivational interviewing (MI) is presented as a mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) approach for increasing empathy among psychosocial support staff working with refugees in resettlement. Method: In a pilot study, 34 case managers in US refugee resettlement non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were trained in MI in a 3-h webinar format using a randomized controlled trial with a wait-list condition. Outcome was measured using the Helpful Responses to Refugees Questionnaire, which assesses empathetic responses to common refugee scenarios. Results: Training group participants’ responses significantly improved from before to after training compared to the wait-list group which received no training; these results were subsequently replicated in the wait-list group after those participants received training. Pre–post effect sizes were medium to large. Participants reported that the training was useful and relevant, and that they applied the skills in their practice. Barriers and facilitators to use were reported. Conclusion: This pilot study had several limitations, including that the implementation of empathetic responses, their impact on the quality of the case manager–refugee relationship, and the ultimate impact on refugee outcomes could not be assessed. Implications for practice, NGO policy, future research and global MHPSS refugee programs are discussed. "

Psychosocial Support for Humanitarian Aid Workers A Roadmap of Trauma and Critical Incident Care

Dunkley, F. Routledge; 1 edition (2018)

"Humanitarian Agencies have a Duty of Care, that includes responding to the psychological needs of their staff. This book reviews the physiological signs of trauma and offers a toolkit to support and foster resilience, along with a 'complete trauma grab bag'"

Mitigating Psychological Distress Among Humanitarian Staff Working With Migrants and Refugees: A Case Example

Kristen Guskovict & Miriam Potocky, 2018

"This article reviews current literature regarding the impact of avoidable stress and the impact of adaptation programs such as staff care and stress management plans on humanitarian work, and illustrates these impacts with a case example from the Danish Refugee Council, an international non-governmental organization with approximately 300 employees working in Greece."

Managing stress in Humanitarian Work

Kristen Guskovict, 2017

"Stress management requires responses at both individual and agency levels. Stress management is often conceptualized in three categories: what type of stress can be avoided, what type of stress can be accepted and what can be adjusted to decrease the psychological impact of stress."

The Idealist's Survival Kit: 75 simple ways to prevent burn out

Alessandra Pigni, 2016 Parallax Press

"Heal from over-exhaustion, prevent burnout, and regain your motivation with these short readings from a psychologist who has spent many years in the field working in conflict and disaster areas"

Documenting the complex relationship between self-efficacy, resiliency, and workplace empowerment: a case study of humanitarian workers in Palestine

Bonnan-White and Issa 2016

'This study examines self-reported views by humanitarian workers working in Palestine concerning three concepts: resilience, generalized self-efficacy, and importance of workplace empowerment'

Helping the Helpers Assisting Staff and Volunteer Workers Before, During, and After Disaster Relief Operations

Quevillon, R. P., Gray, B. L., Erickson, S. E., Gonzalez, E. D. and Jacobs, G. A. 2016; Journal of Clinical Psychology, 72 (12)

"Self-care strategies and system supports employed in preparation for, during, and after disaster relief operations (DROs) are crucial to relief worker well-being and the overall effectiveness of relief efforts."

Staff Well-being and Mental Health in the UNHCR

UNHCR, 2015

"Survey finds that Humanitarian Workers are exposed to mental health risks due to the nature of their work"

Rethinking Compassion Fatigue Through the Lens of Professional Identity: The Case of Child-Protection Workers

Geoffrion, Morselli, Guay 2015; Trauma, Violence, & Abuse
Vol 17, Issue 3, pp. 270 - 283

IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings

World Health Organization, 2007

"The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) issues these Guidelines to enable humanitarian actors to plan, establish and coordinate a set of minimum multi-sectoral responses to protect and improve people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being in the midst of an emergency."

Managing Stress in Humanitarian Workers: Guidelines for Good Practice

Anteras Foundation, 2005

"Managing stress in staff of humanitarian aid organizations is an essential ingredient in enabling the organization to fulfil its field objectives, as well as necessary to protect the well being of the individual staff members themselves."

IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings

World Health Organization, 2007

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) issues these Guidelines to enable humanitarian actors to plan, establish and coordinate a set of minimum multi-sectoral responses to protect and improve people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being in the midst of an emergency.

Work Examples

Training and ongoing Suppport

The DRC sought to assist the new staff in preparing for the job, a 6 hour training on: the impact of trauma on adult refugees, the impact of trauma on child refugees and the impact of refugee trauma on humanitarian workers was provided, along with following up support..

UNHCR Unaccompanied Children’s Program

UNHCR was in need of a set of evaluation tools to assist with a review of programs serving unaccompanied children. A literature review along with a set of evaluation tools to be used in interviews various stakeholders including the children themselves and their caregivers.

The Bhutanese Community of Cincinnati

The Bhutanese Community of Cincinnati wanted to develop a peer support model, to assist its community in maintaining their overall well-being. Staff and community members were provided training and ongoing support to enhance their understanding of mental health and the health care system in the U.S.