Welcome to the Discussion Room for MHPSS in Asia and the Pacific

This room aims to facilitate the sharing of experiences, lessons learned, and good practices on integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding in the Asia & Pacific region.

The room is open for any input you may want to share but to start the conversation it has been framed around two main themes with guiding questions. You can respond to one/more/none of these in your contributions, but please indicate on which of the themes/questions below you are sharing your insights. Kindly note that content translation is available on the top-right corner of the page, where you can choose among 100+ languages.

In your responses, please introduce yourself and tell us whether you have a self-care regime or whether your organization provides staff care to ensure your wellbeing. 

We propose the following guiding questions:

Theme 1: Your experiences 

  1. How do you/your projects integrate/partner/collaborate with the other field?
  2. What have been your successes and/or challenges in linking your work with the other field?
  3. What context/regionally specific elements are you considering and including in your programming on linking MHPSS and Peacebuilding?

Theme 2: Enhancing integration

  1. What resources would your organisation need to be better able to work in a way that integrates MHPSS into peacebuilding?
  2. What are the regional and/or cultural considerations that need to be kept in mind when integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding?
  3. What recommendations would you like to make to UNDP regarding the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding?

Disclaimer: Please note that the room will be open from 11 October to 9 November 2021. Access of UNDP externals to the rooms is based on pre-registration only.

Comments (16)

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Good morning friends around the world-we are delighted that you are interested in joining this online platform and would love to hear your thoughts on how to better link the fields of MHPSS and peacebuilding-all your comments are very (very) welcome.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Good afternoon everyone. Please share your resources and ideas on the platform before and after our meetings, This is a place for connecting and networking. 

Catalina Uribe Burcher

Hi! So happy to connect and take part in this important discussion. In my experience mental health and psychosocial support for those implementing peacebuilding work is paramount but often neglected. 

My experience integrating this work dates back to previous experiences (outside of the UN) in Latin America, particularly Colombia in a project providing reparations for victims of the armed conflict. There, it was clear that for the people involved in the project, whether we were talking about lawyers, phycologists or social workers, the daily-exposure to these experiences was taking a slow but clear toll on their mental health (I knew that that was the case for myself).

With the help of people who had previously set up similar "support to supporters" programmes (with organizations like Doctors without Borders), we built an internal service with both individual cases (like access to a psychologist) and group activities. The latter proved to be quite key since it was mostly our colleagues who could relate and share the experiences we were having while doing this type of work.

I think what was key there was the possibility to keep the offer "open", such that people could access the type of services that better suited them. It wasn't too resource heavy though, but it did require some thinking and internal discussion to see what would better fit our particular group (in terms of our distinct profiles, the type of beneficiaries we were mostly working with, the type of MHPSS they were most opened to using, etc.).  

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Hi [~86211] 

Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us. This topic keeps coming up; it is clearly something that needs to be addressed more. Can you tell us more about the group activities and what they entailed? Also, do you know if the available services were actually taken up by people? This is something that has also come up alot-that the services exit but are not taken up because of stigma/fear etc. 

Also, if you know of 'support for supporters' programmes that you think are effective, please share your insights. 

Catalina Uribe Burcher

Hi Frederike,

Thanks for following up on this. Yes, the group activities were varied. The individual activities focused mostly on access to an individual psychologist and then a plan designed by the person together with the psychologist. Then the group activities included joint exercises on trust, communication, etc., group discussions, etc.

On the second question, yes, the services were certainly used by staff members. I know I myself used it and in team (I supervised a group of eight, plus some consultants and interns) most of them engaged in at least one of the activities. Perhaps this group was a bit special since we all worked with victims and were very sensitized on the importance of mental health, but there was no fear or stigma but the opposite: there was clear demand for these services. I can send you an email with the contact details of the person who design this 'support for supporters' programme in case that may be useful. 

Katja Vauhkonen

Hey! Looking forward the workshop today and to be able to join this process! I am working in a project supporting peace process in Myanmar. Unfortunately my Burmese colleagues could not join the session today, but I hope to be able to meet with them in coming days and bring their knowledge and experiences to this platform as well. 

My other experience from the region comes from Nepal, where I have worked on gender and social inclusion and gender-based violence. I have also some experience in working on peer support for conflict related sexual violence.

In the guidance note that was shared with us there were couple of things that resonated for me. First one is related to intersectional approach - that we understand how people's experiences of conflict are affected by their gender, age, ethnicity, religion, disability, social class, sexual identity etc. Often social capital is included in this list, thus it was interesting to read about social capital framework in the guidance note.

Another thing that I reflected is related to gender role expectations in relation to conflict and peacebuilding. In recent years there has been call to address role of men and boys as well as masculinity norms, for example in institutional approaches such as Agenda 1325 on women, peace and security. These considerations are relevant in themes of MHPSS and PB as well. For example, Naujoks and Ko argue that "PSS should include creating a safe atmosphere where all genders can freely discuss fear and concerns, and rebuild negative self images (such as conflict victim or IDP) into positive ones (active citizen, community leader, caring father or teacher)". This quote is from an excellent read that I can recommend: Behind the masks. Masculinities, gender, peace and security in Myanmar (International Alert, 2018). https://www.international-alert.org/publications/behind-the-masks-mascu…

Timothy Hudson David Culasino Carandang

Good day! I'm Timothy Carandang, and underboard doctor in the Philippines currently working as an evidence reviewer for our local COVID clinical practice guidelines and a member of the Planetary Health Philippines.

From my experience in counseling patients and the culture here in the Philippines, it will be helpful to strengthen manpower by conducting psychological first aid courses, especially online, with certifications to ensure wide participation of potential counselors and responders. Primarily, I see religious leaders as key players in counseling. With proper training, together with other church members and leaders, mental health support could be more intergrated in conflict affected areas and therefore help in peacebuilding.

Thank you for this opportunity to share.

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Dear [~113646] Thank you so much for these interesting comments. I'd be curious to hear more about the role religious leaders are currently playing in conflict-affected areas. Also, what approaches do religious leaders currently use to 'counsel' people and do you see any challenges in using a mostly western-developed tool (PFA) in the Philippine context? 

Rita Angelini

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for your contributions so far. We are glad to inform you that the closure of the room has been extended to 9 November, in order to allow your widest participation possible.

As such, we encourage you to continue sharing your regional perspectives and experiences, and involve other colleagues if possible.

Warmly,

Rita

Katja Vauhkonen

Hey! I wanted to ask from Friederike and Yvonne, what kind of issues you would like us to reflect regarding developing indicators?  

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Dear [~78334] 
Thanks for your question and for participating in the consultation last week. In order to assess whether an integrated approach indeed contributes to more sustainable outcomes for each field, we will need to develop a common set of indicators. In my view, the question is thus what positive changes do you aim to achieve in your peacebuilding work and where are the overlaps/commonalities with the MHPSS field. Does that make sense? Do you agree?

Katja Vauhkonen

Dear Friedrike and all,

thanks! I add here some points on peacebuilding and use of indicators in general. As we know, programme design, monitoring and evaluation processes and tools are linear in their nature. Conflict and fragile environments however are emergent and dynamic, where systems, dynamics, actors and relations are near-constantly shifting. It is difficult to measure change in complex environments, where there may be more than one variable effecting the observed change. 

It is very important that indicators are intimately linked with the intervention design and are context and conflict specific. Often there are donor level indicators or sector-level indicators - for example in health care, indicators have become much more standardised. That said, in the field of peacebuilding it may not be appropriate to standardize indicators as each conflict is unique. This is something I think we would need to consider, when starting to develop a common set of indicators for an approach that combines MHPSS and peacebuilding. Non-linearity of change as well as the importance of context and conflict analyses to understand what the indicators are telling us.

In peacebuilding M&E, monitoring practices that go beyond collecting data against indicators are recommended. This includes visiting the indicators, logframes and theories of change if the context and conflict have changed. 

I have used the document below here as a source:

https://www.dmeforpeace.org/resource/back-to-basics-a-compilation-of-be…

 

 

Marian Tankink

Dear all, thanks a lot for participating in the consultation room  and/or SparkBlue. As Friederike stated, we need to develop a common set of indicators in order to assess whether an integrated approach indeed contributes to more sustainable outcomes for each field. I would like to know if already such indicators are developed and used. I hope that you want to share that with us and also how these indicators are developed and how it works out in practice. Please let us know.

Katja Vauhkonen

Hey!

Today I had finally an opportunity to meet online with my colleague living in Myanmar. She has had difficulties with internet connections due to conflict situation in the State she currently is staying. With help of a translator, we discussed about her reflections and experiences on PSS and PB. I am purposely summarising the conversation here much as it was, without adding any analysis. 

My colleague works in a peacebuilding organisation, focusing on co-operation of political parties on a sub-national (State/Region) level and enhancing political parties' participation to informal and formal dialogues in peace process. She has also worked on PSS for many years, originally receiving training from a person from University of Cologne. The topics she has focused on include trauma, post traumatic symptoms, trauma healing, relaxation methods, breathing exercise, child and adult therapies, active listening.

She has conducted training of trainers for teachers of orphanages and in military and nursing schools, also for pastors and ministers from churches and members of armed groups from ethnic armed organisations.

PSS is familiar for her also from Nargis cyclone response, 2008. After the coup in Myanmar on February 2021, she has given PSS training online to CSO's, human rights organisations, women's groups, conventions working with IDP's and members of ethnic armed organisations. Many church-based organisations do counselling, although according to my colleague this is not enough if person is very much affected by trauma.

Myanmar has had 70 years civil year and many people have grown with traumas. Many experience fear, anxiety, depression. In general, peace building organisations are not interested in PSS, neither do health practitioners think about the connection to PB. There is awareness raising needed for PSS. Many people confuse trauma to severe mental illness (as "being mad"). 

Most needed resources would be human resources and materials such as books and pencils, colouring pens. Vitamins, medication. Money. According to her "we should not go by empty hands to communities. Giving something is part of trust building".

When asked about cultural considerations, according to my colleague many are shy to express issues related to mental health or need for PSS. In some communities, people will rather make an offering (for example sacrifice chicken) to spirits to improve situation.

Men and women have different kind of experiences during conflict. Some men who have worked as soldiers are carrying trauma. They may drink a lot or use other substances. Women also have anxiety, depression and fears. But they are more resistant (/resilient) as they also have to take care of family and children, cook and care for the home.

For a person suffering from trauma, family support is very important. Family should understand the problem or trauma that is affecting the person.

The organisation in which my colleague works is working and coordinating with CSO's, political parties and some ethnic armed organisations. According to her, some of the project partners would benefit from PSS, especially during these times after the coup. 

 

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Dear Katja, thank you very much for sharing this information with us. It is good to have more input from this region. The document you attached to your previous email is really useful to frame the approach to design indicators, the usefulness, the tricky part, the tips. All in all inspirational. 

Nana Abdoulaye

Bonjour,je suis un réfugié centrafricain vivant au Cameroun c'est un grand honneur pour moi de pouvoir donner mon avis sur ce sujet

D'abord je veux essayer de vous donner les problèmes aux quels nous nous rencontrions

L'analphabétisme ici notre communauté a besoin une grande sensibilisation et un soutien financier et moral à fin d'être autonome

Le problème psychologique car la majorité de nous sont tromatisés par la guerre et les conséquences sont toujours manifeste certains sont désespérés,degoutés de la vie 

Le problème économique la famine pousse les gens à faire du n'importe quoi comme par exemple la prostitution,le vol,le vente des drogue, l'abandon de l'école et bien d'autres

 

 


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