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Culture, Context and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing of Syrians
Syria report UNHCR
A Review for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Staff Working with Syrians Affected by Armed Conflict 2015
This report aims to provide information on the sociocultural background of the Syrian population as well as cultural aspects of mental health and psychosocial wellbeing relevant to care and support. it is based on an extensive review of the available literature on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), within the context of the current armed conflict in Syria.
The document is primarily meant to inform mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) staff, such as: psychologists, psychosocial counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and others who are involved providing individual or group counselling, psychotherapy and/or psychiatric treatment for Syrians. Other humanitarian professionals, such as general health providers working with Syrians or staff involved in public health, community-based protection, community mobilisation, child protection, sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), may find this document useful, although it is not primarily written for them.
The specific information in this review complements more generic guidance, such as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings and UNHCR’s Operational Guidance for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programming in Refugee Operations. Together with these guidelines, this report can inform the design and delivery of interventions to promote mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of Syrians affected by armed conflict and displacement, both within Syria and in countries hosting refugees from Syria.
Suggested citation: Hassan, G, Kirmayer, LJ, Mekki- Berrada A., Quosh, C., el Chammay, R., Deville-Stoetzel, J.B., Youssef, A., Jefee-Bahloul, H., Barkeel-Oteo, A., Coutts, A., Song, S. & Ventevogel, P. Culture, Context and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing of Syrians: A Review for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support staff working with Syrians Affected by Armed Conflict. Geneva: UNHCR, 2015
Photo credit: ©2014 Turjoy Chowdhury, Courtesy of Photoshare


The MHPSS.net community survey is now closed!
September 10, 2015
The MHPSS.net community survey has now closed!
Over 300 members of our community have completed the MHPSS.net community survey! We deeply appreciate the time and effort you have taken. Your very informative feedback will help shape the future of MHPSS.net, so that it can better serve the diverse needs of MHPSS practitioners around the world.  Many thanks!!!


Webinar: Preventing Suicide in Low Resource Countries
September 2, 2015
MHIN webinar pic


The Mental Health Innovation Network and LSE Health present

Preventing Suicide in Low Resource Countries

 with Drs Jason Bantjes and Erminia Colucci

September 10, 2015 | 18.00 UK time (GMT+1)

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


According to the World Health Organization report: Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative, over 800,000 people die by suicide each year, globally, and many more attempt suicide. The impact on families, friends and communities is far-reaching for many years forward. In public health, suicide often fails to be prioritized as a major problem and despite an increase in research and understanding about suicide, the stigma around suicide prevents people from seeking help when needed and health systems services often fail to provide timely and effective help.

This year’s World Suicide Prevention Day will be marked by the theme Preventing Suicide: Reaching Out and Saving Lives. The Mental Health Innovation Network and the LSE Health are hosting a seminar – “Preventing Suicide in Low Resource Settings” – to honour this day. The seminar will bring together a distinguished panel of experts with experience in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Speakers will discuss their experiences of developing successful suicide prevention interventions and national-level suicide prevention guidelines in low resource settings.


Event Details

Date: Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Time: 18:00 – 19:00 BST

Venue: John Snow Lecture Theatre, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Attendance to this event is free, but please register here: http://goo.gl/kZ1j1F.

If you are unable to attend the event and would like to watch the seminar remotely, please contact us at [email protected] for the live link. The recorded seminar will also be available on the MHIN website shortly after the event.




Professor Ricardo Araya | Professor of Global Mental Health and Co-Director of the Centre for Global Mental Health at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine



Dr Jason Bantjes | Lecturer, Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa
Dr Bantjes will provide a brief overview of the research that is needed to develop suicide prevention interventions based on his experiences working in a hospital based environment. He will also highlight the mismatch between the needs of suicide attempters and current services in South Africa and will call attention to the need for greater psychological input and hospital-based suicide prevention interventions that can be offered to patients without necessitating hospital admissions.
Dr Erminia Colucci | Lecturer, Centre of Psychiatry at Queen Mary University of London in the UK
Through a recent collaboration between a panel of Sri Lankan experts, the Global and Cultural Mental Health Unit at the University of Melbourne, and Mental Health First Aid, Sri Lanka saw the development of its first set of guidelines for suicide prevention. Dr Colucci was a key driving force through this process and will be launching the guidelines during her presentation.


Webinar Recording: Role of Psychiatrists in Humanitarian Settings
August 19, 2015

Role of Psychiatrists in Humanitarian Settings (Recording )

Wednesday, 2nd of September, 2015, 15:00 UTC

Humanitarian emergencies have devastating psychological and social effects on individuals, families, communities and societies; increasing the risk of mental health and psychosocial concerns in affected populations. In response to these effects, psychiatrists working within the government or aid agencies are expected to provide a different profile of services that assimilates new concepts related to community support and capacity building activities.

mhpss.net through the webinar ‘Role of Psychiatrists in Humanitarian Settings’ is trying to explore the various aspects of this role through presentations and discussion with a group of psychiatrists who have been working in different contexts and with different agencies.

Watch the recording of the webinar at this link. (Duration Approx. 120 minutes) We apologize for the fact that Internet access difficulties have affected the recording of the introduction at the start of the webinar.

The webinar will start with presentations by Dr. Fahmy Hanna (World Health Organization), and Dr. Peter Ventovogel (UNHCR), followed by feedback and field reflections from Dr. Asmaa Moustafa (Egypt), Dr. Fuad Almossa (Turkey), Dr. Peter Hughes (United Kingdom), and Dr. Sherese Ali (Canada). The webinar will be moderated by Dr. Mohamed Elshazly, Global Host for MENA Region at mhpss.net.

Feel free to share this recording among your networks.

More information on our speakers:

Webinar-fahmyDr. Fahmy Hanna, a qualified medical doctor and psychiatrist from Egypt, he received his post graduate certificates and trainings in Egypt, UK, India and Italy. Dr. Hanna has more than a decade of experience in mental health services and its development in low and middle income settings. He most recently has served at the WHO office in Damascus /Syria as a Technical officer on mental health during the current crisis in the country; He previously worked at the WHO office in Libya from 2011 to 2014 as a mental health advisor providing technical support for designing and implementing a successful scale up program for mental health and psychosocial services during the conflict and in the post conflict phase. He also served at WHO EMRO office as Technical officer on mental health and substance abuse during 2010-2011 with a focus in his work on mental health of Displaced Iraqis in the region. Dr Hanna, during his career, had visited and provided technical consultations for a wide range of programs on mental health and health of special groups with different donor agencies, Academic institutes ,UN and NGOs in many countries including Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Iran, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Before this, he also served in several strategic positions at the Mental Health Department at Ministry of health in Egypt and supported the development and implementation of the national mental health information system and the national advocacy campaign for people with mental disabilities in Egypt .

Webinar-peterDr. Peter Ventevogel, M.D., is a psychiatrist and a medical anthropologist. Since 2013 he works with UNHCR, the refugee agency of the United Nations and is currently the Senior Mental Health Officer based in Geneva. From 2008-2013 he was the editor-in-chief of ‘Intervention, Journal for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas’, published by the War Trauma Foundation. He worked with the NGO HealthNet TPO in mental health projects in Afghanistan (2002 – 2005) and Burundi (2005-2008) and as their Technical Advisor Mental Health in the head office in Amsterdam (2008-2011). In 2011 and 2012 he also worked as psychiatrist with Arq Foundation, the national trauma expert centre in the Netherlands. Peter regularly did consultancies for the World Health Organization and the UNHCR in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. He has been course director of several academic short courses such as the course ‘Culture, Psychology & Psychiatry’ (Amsterdam Masters of Medical Anthropology), the ‘Practice Oriented Course Mental Health & Psychosocial Support in Post Conflict Setting’ (HealthNet TPO, the Netherlands) and the annual course Mental Health in Complex Emergencies (Fordham University New York).

webinar-asmaDr. Asmaa Moustafa is a graduate of Medical school of Ain Shams university, Cairo, Egypt in 2001, has started working in Abassia Mental Hospital in 2003 and specialized in Child Psychiatry in 2004, Abassia ‘s Child Unit was serving a huge catchment area (Cairo mainly but were serving children from other governorates), she was working among a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers helping children with different emotional and behavioral problems, in 2011 she worked in PSTIC (Psychosocial Training Institute in Cairo) offering training and supervision of psychosocial workers whose work was among refugee children (schools, those who were working with single mothers, and those who were offering recreational activities for children), she was facilitating referral of children to needed medical and psychiatric services if needed. Currently she is working in Nadim Centre for treatment and rehabilitation of victims of torture whose clients include a percentage of refugees.

Webinar-fuadDr. Fuad Almossa, MSc Psychiatry. Formerly working as a psychiatrist with International Medical Corps, Turkey; in this role, he had been providing training to primary health care (PHC) staff to identify and manage those with mental or psychosocial problems, with the goal of integrating mental health into general health care. He is also providing training and supervision to community based psychosocial workers who are providing psychosocial/non-pharmacological interventions to persons in need. Dr. Almossa has more than seven years of experience in clinical mental health services, training and MHPSS services in emergencies, and worked with many INGOs in Yemen (2007) and KSA (2009). His academic credentials include a Master degree in psychiatry from Syrian Board of specialties. Dr. Almossa is currently a PHD candidate in psychophysiology department, Gaziantep University, Turkey, and working on a research on (Evidence Based Psychosocial interventions in the promotion of mental health in Emergency Settings)

Webinar- Dr. PeterDr. Peter Hughes, Consultant Psychiatrist/ Hon Senior Lecturer Springfield University Hospital, London. Chair of Volunteering and International Psychiatry special Interest Group at Royal College of Psychiatrists. Lead for Kings Sierra leone mental health link and Somaliland Kings THET link. Extensive field experience in global mental health including complex humanitarian emergency.

Main interest area -training health workers.


Webinar-Dr.ShereseDr. Sherese Ali (MD FRCPC, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, Dip. American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Dip. Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine), has worked as a humanitarian doctor since 2010, serving the role of MHPSS manager and coordinator in Ethiopia, Haiti, Sudan, Iraq, Turkey, Northern Syria, Damascus and Somaliland. She has served as consultant mhGAP and ToT trainer for the WHO EMR. She has experience in post-disaster relief and development and mental health emergency response in areas of armed conflict. She has served on the expert committee for the evolving WHO Convention of the Right for Persons with Disabilities. Dr. Ali has published articles in this field based on the experiences in Haiti and Sudan and has contributed to the mhGAP adaptation guides for Sudan and Iraq.

Dr. Ali completed medical training at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada and did subspecialty training in Neuropsychiatry and Consultation Liaison Psychiatry at the Maudsley Institute, London, England and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.  Her areas of academic focus are in the field of epilepsy, rheumatology and brain injury and she has published several book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles on these topics.

Our Host:

webinar- mohamedMohamed Elshazly, is Regional Host for Middle East and North Africa at mhpss.net. Mohamed is a qualified medical doctor and psychiatrist from Egypt with more than a decade of experience in clinical mental health services, training and MHPSS services in emergencies. He is working now as Regional MHPSS Advisor- Middle East, at International Medical Corps.