Health

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS)

 

Why are mental health and psychosocial support important at the Icelandic Red Cross?

Mental health and psychosocial support needs are real, urgent, and life-threatening. This is why mental health and psychosocial support are key pillars of the work that the Icelandic Red Cross and the worldwide Movement of the Red Cross Red Crescent is engaged in.

The below video provides a brief introduction to mental health and psychosocial support and its importance within the Red Cross Red Cresent Movement. 

MHPSS and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement

What is mental health?

Mental health is essential to our overall well-being. When we feel mentally well, we can work productively, enjoy our free time, and contribute actively to our communities.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement as a state of wellbeing in which every individual:

  • realizes their own potential
  • can cope with the normal stresses of life
  • can work productively and fruitfully, and
  • is able to contribute to their community.

The term mental health is often mistakenly used to merely mean the absence of mental illness, however mental health is made up of social, emotional, and psychological aspects. Good mental health cannot be attained without psychosocial wellbeing and vice versa.

What is psychosocial wellbeing and support?

Psychosocial wellbeing is the interaction between social aspects (such as interpersonal relationships and social connections, social resources, social norms, social values, social roles, community life, spiritual and religious life) and psychological aspects (such as emotions, thoughts, behaviors, knowledge and coping strategies) that contribute to overall wellbeing.

Psychosocial support protects or promotes people's mental health and psychosocial wellbeing and supports resilience and recovery by addressing both social and psychological needs. Psychosocial support promotes respecting the independence, dignity, and coping mechanisms of individuals, families, and communities.

Why is it so important to address mental health and psychosocial support needs?

Mental health and psychosocial support are just as important to our lives as our physical health. We can all benefit from good mental health and psychosocial support. 

Unmet mental health and psychosocial needs can lead to an increase in substance use and suicide, impact cognitive functionality, livelihoods, and educational opportunities, and negatively influence the physical health, quality of life, and life expectancy of affected populations. Unmet mental health and psychosocial needs have direct and indirect consequences for everyone. WHO data shows that:

  • one person dies from suicide every 40 seconds
  • 1 in 6 adults are experiencing a common mental health problem at any one time
  • people with severe mental health conditions die prematurely - up to 20 years earlier
  • depression and anxiety disorders alone cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity
  • early intervention saves lives and is cost-effective, and
  • for every $1 invested in scaled-up treatment for depression and anxiety, there is a $4 return in better health and productivity.

It is clear from the data, that addressing mental health and psychosocial support needs benefits individuals, families, and communities.

What do mental health and psychosocial support work look like in practice?

Mental health and psychosocial support activities include any support that people receive to protect or promote their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. 

Most people do not develop serious mental health conditions in the face of adversity, but rather show resilience provided that they can activate their personal coping strategies and they have access to basic services and security and the support of their families, friends, and community. Others need more focused mental health and psychosocial support services in addition to access to basic services and security.

Mental health activities may include counseling, group therapy, psychiatric or psychological assessments and treatments, and more. They are often delivered by persons with professional training in mental health or psychology, or highly-skilled, trained, and supervised volunteers.

Psychosocial support activities may include psychological first aid, psychoeducation, awareness-raising, community-based activities, and other activities. They are usually delivered by trained volunteers but often supervised by someone with a more advanced background in psychology, social work, or health. 

While the Icelandic Red Cross provides both mental health and also psychosocial support services, the majority of its mental health and psychosocial support services are psychosocial support.