Newsletter. How does war affect children’s mental health and their future?

Newsletter No. 3 November 2023 How does war affect children's mental health and their future?

15.11 2023

Overview of content:
Children and trauma
Children and resilience
Psychological first aid
Children in armed conflict
Refugees and asylum seekers
Launch: Supporting helpers in their work with survivors
Download the manuals
Cooperation with the Ukraine Initiative of the University of Oslo
New website
Upcoming Events


Dear colleagues,

Tragically, we have again recently seen situations and examples of humanitarian crisis and conflict where humanitarian agencies do not have access to people and zones where such aid is urgently required. Situations like this have severe consequences, for civilians in general and in particular for children. The international humanitarian laws are quite explicit with regard to the situation of civilians in times of conflict, and denying people in vulnerable situations, access to medical care, and necessary help and support, must be considered serious violations of these principles.

It is crucial in contexts of armed conflict to address the emerging challenges in child care and child protection. There must be a special focus on the risks faced by children and women because, in these conflicts, they often become victims of grave atrocities, including rape and other forms of sexual violence. In the following, some existing resources and guidelines regarding the situation for children and children’s needs will be presented.


Supporting children and overcoming trauma

In accordance with the EU guidelines on children and armed conflict, it is imperative to focus on supporting children in overcoming the trauma they experience. This support can be achieved by training helpers and caregivers on how to respond to these children’s reactions and providing them with a sense of stability.

Based on the aforementioned guidelines, it is estimated that more than two million children have lost their lives due to armed conflicts in recent years, and six million have been physically injured. War and conflict deprive children of their parents, caregivers, essential social services, healthcare, and education. Around twenty million children worldwide are either internally displaced or refugees. Additionally, one million children are orphaned, and many more are held hostage, abducted, or trafficked.

Children affected by armed conflict and gender-based violence have both immediate and long-term needs, including efforts for reunification with family members, various forms of support such as social reintegration and education, and psycho-social rehabilitation. The impact of violence experienced during war, armed actions, and sexual violence can have lifelong consequences for these children. Therefore, it is crucial to address their needs through involvement, support, and action on multiple levels. Providing mental health assistance to these children is fundamental in this endeavour. Training helpers and caregivers to respond to their reactions and offering them stability are key components of this comprehensive approach.

In this newsletter, you will find resources that we hope will be a help and source of information for those who are supporting children in wars and conflicts around the world.

GBV-manual – Children icon

Children and trauma
A variety of explanations is needed to understand the symptoms and behaviour of children who have been exposed to human rights violations. In terms of their development, first of all, children exhibit different reactions to specific kinds of trauma at different ages. Read more about the topic here. 

Children and resilience
Some children are more vulnerable to stressful life events than others. Resilience is the ability to thrive even in the face of challenges. It is therefore important to understand the factors that help healing and enable children to cope. Read more about the topic here. 

Helping the helpers icon

Psychological first aid
Psychological First Aid (PFA) is an evidence-informed approach that is built on the concept of human resilience. PFA aims to reduce stress symptoms and assist in a healthy recovery following a traumatic event, natural disaster, public health emergency, or even a personal crisis. Read more about the topic here

Children in armed conflict

Children in armed conflict
Children’s rights in conflict are often violated; their rights to be protected from violence, sexual abuse, terror and loss are disrupted. Under such conditions, practically all the necessary factors for child development are seriously harmed, and children may experience short- and/or long-term physical and/or psychological consequences. Read more about the topic here

Asylum seekers in Europe icon

Refugees and asylum seekers
Asylum-seekers, though not a homogeneous group, are vulnerable due to displacement, persecution, and exposure to violence. Their mental health risks increase due to extreme conditions, forced migration, personal loss, and unfamiliar environments. Stricter asylum policies can further worsen their mental well-being during the screening process. Read more about the topic here

We are pleased to introduce you to the official launch of our handbooks: “Sexual violence against Children in war, conflict, humanitarian crisis and low resource communities” and “Sexual violence against boys and men in war, conflict and migration”.

Our aim with the manuals is to provide practical guidance to helpers on how best to support and help boys, men and children who have experienced sexual violence in various challenging situations. Our manuals deal with different aspects of these topics, how traumatic events affect the mental health of those exposed, as well as practical approaches and tools that can be used to meet their psychological needs.

All manuals can be downloaded from the MHHRI website

There are three different manuals, which respectively address working with women, with boys and men, and with children who have experienced sexual violence.

The manuals are translated into several languages. The page numbers in each manual remain the same across languages. This allows survivors and helpers to work from copies in their preferred language and read the same content on the same pages. It also makes it easier to teach participants when participants and trainers work in more than one language. The manuals include a toolbox. Survivors can use it individually to regulate their own emotions through grounding exercises or in collaboration with a helper. Helpers can also use grounding exercises to take care of themselves as helpers.

Cooperation with the Ukraine Initiative of the University of Oslo
Throughout the month of October, we have continued our collaboration with the University of Oslo to support our partners in Ukraine. On the 10th of October, we organised a World Mental Health Day seminar, where we discussed mental health from a human rights perspective, offering insights into the current needs of Ukrainians, after 19 months of war.

Our 3rd student-student GBV webinar

Our intern Laure Isaac has been taking the lead in organising another three-day webinar for psychology students of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, taught by Norwegian psychology students. 6 Norwegian co-instructors were recruited from the University of Oslo and the University of Bergen, and then trained by MHHRI. In the last week of October, 14 participants followed the course.
We received very positive feedback from the students, regarding the structure, the content of the course, as well as the practical aspect of the training.

Mental Health and Human Rights Info logo

Take a look at our new website. 
Here you will find information available on violations of human rights and mental health in disaster, war, and conflict areas. It includes a database of research, articles, guides, and organizations.

Additionally, we have our training manuals section, thematic pages covering core topics of mental health and human rights violations, a page dedicated to survivors, our newly developed Ukraine resources page, and more. Visit us!

Upcoming events 

Join the International Council of Psychologists for two days of discussion, networking, sharing and learning
Human Rights, Dignity & Justice: Empowering the Disempowered
Friday December 1, 2023 & Saturday, December 2, 2023

23rd Nordic Conference for Professionals working with Traumatised Refugees
Rehabilitating Torture Survivors and Traumatised Refugees
Göteborg, Sweden on the 7th and 8th of December 2023

ECTMIH2023 Programme
The overarching theme of the congress is planetary health, focusing on the health of ‘human civilisations and the national systems on which they depend’ and reflecting the interconnectedness of human health and climate change in a rapidly changing environment.
Netherlands, Utrecht, 2023

Karolinska Institutet – UNICEF Joint Conference on Global Child and Adolescent Mental Health
The conference will feature state-of-the-art research and innovations from leading minds around the world. The aims are to promote and enhance exchange between international experts and diverse stakeholders, presenting the latest research, policy and practice in global child and adolescent mental health.
May 15-16, 2024, Stockholm, Sweden

We appreciate feedback and comments 

Welcome to our new subscribers, we hope you will find our content useful. The Mental Health and Human Rights Info Newsletter is a newsletter with the aim to provide insight on a certain subject across the scope of our work; human rights violations in war and conflict areas and mental health. Our intention is to deliver a newsletter as a short “lecture” where you can find relevant information regarding a specific subject from a mental health perspective. You will receive our newsletter 5 times a year.

We would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on other issues you would like to see in this newsletter or if you are planning an event on related issues, please let us know so we can include your event in our newsletter.

If you know anyone who would be interested in receiving this e-newsletter, please forward it, and encourage them to sign up.

Facebook and Instagram 
On our MHHRI Facebook page, and on Instagram we are continuously posting new and relevant articles that we add to our website, as well as events and videos. We also just launched our new LinkedIn page!

Sincerely yours,
Take care – and we are wishing you all the best.

Sincerely yours,

Mental Health and Human Rights Info

Copyright © 2023  MHHRI.ORG All rights reserved.

MHHRI are not responsible for the content of external websites. Links are made because we think the content might be of use. The comments and evaluation on this page are made by our staff to make the links more accessible to you, and is entirely our subjective impression of the link in relation to our context.

Our mailing address is: