Experts reassess mental health relief for crisis survivors

An international team of experts, led by Yale Global Health Initiative associate Wietse Tol, is calling for practical research to help improve mental health outcomes for survivors of crises such as armed conflict and natural disasters.

Experts in regions experiencing humanitarian crises want more research focused on generating and developing practical knowledge that could have tangible benefits in humanitarian settings rather than continuing to focus on topics, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, that have long dominated the research field.

This research is important because humanitarian crises inflict psychological distress, social problems, and mental disorders on millions of people each year. In 2009, there were 36 armed conflicts in 26 countries, and more than 119 million people were affected by natural disasters.

In the study led by Tol and published in this week's PLoS Medicine, researchers developed a consensus-based research agenda to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings with input from 82 experts (including academics, policy makers and practitioners) representing regions where humanitarian crises occur.

The authors conclude: "Our research-priority-setting initiative — the first of its kind in this particular field — showed promising points of agreement between diverse stakeholders on research priorities for mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings."