On World Mental Health Day, we reiterate the message of Dutch Minister Sigrid Kaag and former Cordaid colleague in Iraq Hala Sabah Jameel: mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) need to be part of efforts to build and sustain peace.
In Northern Iraq, Cordaid’s mental caregivers and psychosocial workers, such as Sonita Khalil, give their all to help people deal with severe levels of anxiety and other trauma-related disorders. But qualified staff, equipment, drugs, and resources are lacking.
“Like in many other parts of the world, mental health care services are still shrouded in stigma and prejudice, underrated, and understaffed,” minister for foreign trade and development cooperation of the Netherlands Sigrid Kaag and Dr. Hala Sabah Jameel claim in an op-ed recently published by Devex. The mental health system in which mental caregivers work in Iraq “has gaps as big as bomb craters”.
“MHPSS is crucial for individuals, families, communities, and decision-makers to be able to recover, rebuild, resume livelihoods, and foster reconciliation.”Sigrid Kaag and Hala Sabah Jameel
As long as these gaps exist, the suffering of displaced and traumatized people increases. “Traumas accumulate. With time, treatment becomes more urgent and more difficult”, they say.
Minister Kaag and Dr. Sabah Jameel urge the international community to recognize the importance of mental health and psychosocial support in efforts to help conflict-affected countries overcome their past. And to invest in mental care for people who are affected by conflict. “MHPSS is crucial for individuals, families, communities, and decision-makers to be able to recover, rebuild, resume livelihoods, and foster reconciliation.”
CORDAID’S MHPSS WORK IN IRAQ
Cordaid first started providing primary health care in the Kurdish region of Iraq in 2017, serving displaced people from Sinjar and host communities. Given the need, mental health and psychosocial support services were later integrated into the health facility’s services.
Today, the MHPSS program covers nine locations in five governorates of Iraq, working closely with Iraq’s Ministry of Health and United Nations clusters. Cordaid recently began research on MHPSS and peacebuilding in two districts of Iraq.
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Read more about Cordaid’s mental health work in Iraq: