An increasing number of recent studies on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) points to the importance of cultural adaptation of MHPSS programmes to suit the context in which they are applied. There is a significant need for MHPSS interventions in Syria and Syrian refugee communities in the region; however, culturally adapted approaches are rare, with most Syrian MHPSS professionals applying frameworks developed in the Global North. While results in the sector are often measured based on the number of beneficiaries reached, it is often unclear what impact the lack of cultural adaptation has on people’s lives. If we are to measure impact both in terms of quantity and quality of interventions, a focus on cultural adaptation is key. This policy/practice paper therefore focuses on developing culturally adapted MHPSS interventions for Syrian communities affected by the ongoing conflict and displacement, in order to better understand the impact of cultural adaptation on people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.

The project was based on a research capacity-sharing approach. The research capacity-sharing with MHPSS professionals from Syria aimed to help build their research skills, enabling them to conduct research and produce evidence that is based on local experiences and competencies. The project was based on the belief that belonging to the same community as their research participants, Syrian researchers working on MHPSS in Syria and amongst Syrian refugees are best placed to produce the evidence that would then allow them to develop and modify MHPSS programmes that serve the interests of Syrian beneficiaries. The paper is based on a one-year project, which was part of a broader, more long-term collaboration between Syria Bright Future (SBF), a Syrian NGO that has been working on MHPSS in the Syrian context since 2012, and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI), a network focused on the collaborative production of evidence on the role of faith in local-international partnerships between researchers and practitioners.

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