MHPSS in peacebuilding

Peacebuilding programmes can achieve better results if they address the broken trust and tensions between individuals and communities, and the impact this has on mental health. There is an important role here for MHPSS. 

Armed conflicts and violence increase people’s risk of developing mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. These crises also erode trust between people and communities and between communities and the authorities, which makes it harder to create peace. 

MHPSS not only improves the wellbeing of individuals, but also contributes to reconciliation and resilience at community level. Because of this combined effect, MHPSS can play an important role in creating peace. 

The Netherlands’ efforts to link up MHPSS and peacebuilding are increasingly successful: more and more organisations are recognising the importance of MHPSS for bringing about lasting peace. 

Unintended effects of aid

When humanitarian programmes in a conflict zone are carried out by organisations with an insufficient understanding of the conflict, the opposing groups and their different interests, they can unintentionally make the conflict worse. Similarly, when organisations provide mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) without the necessary expertise, they can make people’s mental health worse. The ‘Do No Harm’ principle requires humanitarian organisations to avoid these types of unintended negative effects. 

The Netherlands therefore calls on organisations to share their knowledge: NGOs with expertise in peacebuilding and NGOs with expertise in MHPSS can learn from each other. 

A guidance framework is also available for organisations wishing to integrate MHPSS in their work.