16 unhcrs mental health and psychosocial support for

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What does psychosocial mean? The term psychosocial indicates an approach that accounts for two types of inter-related effects of conflict and displacement: “psychological effects” – defined as those that “affect different levels of functioning including cognitive (perceptions and memory as a basis for thoughts and learning), affective (emotions), and behaviour,” and “social effects,” including altered relationships, family and community networks, and economic status. 12 According to the IASC, “[t]he term psychosocial denotes the inter-connection between psychological and social processes and the fact that each continually interacts with and influences the other.” 13 Terre des Hommes describes psychosocial work as “deal[ing] with the well-being of individuals in relation to their environment,” 14 reflecting the principles underlying psychosocial work: a recognition of the multi-layered impacts of conflict and the need to address the contextual influences on individuals’ and communities’ well-being and functioning. The psychosocial framework is described by UNICEF as one that works towards “reinforc[ing] well-being, dignity and resiliency” of individuals and communities. 15 Throughout the history of the field of MHPSS, the meaning of the term psychosocial has been contested. As psychosocial experts Ager, Strang, and Wessells pointed out, the term psychosocial has been used in three distinct ways: 1) as a synonym with mental health (often to avoid using potentially stigmatising language); 2) to “describe a wide and diverse range of programs involving recreational, cultural, informal and sometimes formal, educational activities”; and, 3) to describe approaches that aim towards “enhancing the capacity of a community or individual to engage with their circumstances, and more effectively identify and mobilise resources.” 16 It is often the case that the list of interventions considered as “psychosocial” is long, and includes a broad range of approaches and different forms of engaging with individuals and communities. Yet, experts and practitioners interviewed in the course of this review believe that the IASC Guidelines has helped to establish a framework of best practice interventions. While recognising that there is continued debate as to what constitutes a psychosocial intervention, there is now improved consensus around the core principles of the field and efforts to provide interventions following these principles. In interviews conducted for this review with staff from other humanitarian agencies and actors in the MHPSS field, it was evident that, in order to increase understanding of and support for psychosocial activities, significant policy development, strategic thinking and concerted activities have been required. Some organisations have worked to define psychosocial activities specifically in relation to their mandate – for example, child protection or health programs – and have conducted
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  • Fall '19
  • Humanitarian aid, psychosocial support

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