The field of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in humanitarian emergencies has
shown remarkable development over the last two decades.1 Mental health was once a notable omission from the health priorities to be addressed in the context of humanitarian response (Ager 1999; PWG
2002). Humanitarian work was focused principally on addressing material needs, implicitly judging non-material needs as of lower priority in acute emergencies and more challenging to address, being subject to local cultural variation (Harrell-Bond 1986). Now, however, MHPSS has been firmly
established—viewed within a broader framing of the psychosocial well-being of communities impacted by crisis—as a key sector of humanitarian response (Mollica et al. 2004).

The place of MHPSS within prioritized humanitarian action has been noticeably codified since the establishment—and widespread endorsement—of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on MHPSS in Emergency Settings (2007). These guidelines specify a “minimum response” to a range of mental health and psychosocial issues, which are conceived of with respect not only to health but also to broad cross-sectoral concerns in such areas as water and sanitation, food and nutrition, and education. With these IASC guidelines now translated into many languages, and key principles from them adopted within the revised Sphere Standards (Sphere Project 2013) governing humanitarian response, MHPSS activities may now be considered “mainstream.”

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