Mental health conditions in conflict situations are much more widespread than we thought: But there’s a lot we can do to support people
Dr Mark van Ommeren, WHO, 2019
“Today, there is no shortage of countries in conflict. UN estimates suggest that in 2019, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries around the world will need humanitarian assistance resulting from conflict or disaster. Nearly 69 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced by violence and conflict, the highest number since World War II.
Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to help them. Indeed, there’s a lot we are doing.
In 2019 WHO is addressing mental health in countries and territories with populations affected by large-scale emergencies across the world, in Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, among others.
In many countries in the world, ignorance about mental health and mental illness remains widespread. The uptake of mental health care during conflict and other emergencies, in countries where such support has been limited, can lead to the identification of people who are tied up, locked in cages, hidden from society. In many cases, it is this very support that helps dispel myths about mental illness and leads to treatment and care and a path towards a more dignified life.
We have also learned that, when the political will exists, emergencies can be catalysts for building quality mental health services”, Dr Mark van Ommeren, WHO
The sensitive nature of research on VAW requires special ethical and safety considerations. For example, how can researchers safely approach selection, recruitment and follow-up of participants in a study to evaluate the outcomes and impacts of an intervention to prevent violence? How do researchers address randomization of participants into control or intervention arms? How do researchers monitor and manage risk of violence from participation in the intervention? And what additional protections should be put in place when the research involves populations requiring special considerations, such as pregnant women?
Gender-based violence is a complicated and sensitive subject. Reporting on gender-based violence means discussing issues that are often considered taboo, and talking publicly about intimate and distressing matters. This can be particularly challenging in countries where tradition and religion play an important role in everyday life.
WHO Ethical and safety recommendations for researching, documenting and monitoring sexual violence in emergencies
World Health Organization
Ethics can be defined as a system or code of moral values that provides rules and standards of conduct. The three primary ethical principles that should guide all inquiries involving human beings (including methods used to collect information) are as follows: 1) Respect for persons, which relates to respecting the autonomy and self-determination of participants, and protecting those who lack autonomy, including by providing security from harm or abuse.