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10 October 2012: Today Grand Challenges Canada announced it will be funding a significant upgrade of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) network’s online platform, including making it accessible in three additional international languages. The three-year grant to the Institute for Health Policy, Sri Lanka, entitled Building an Online Community of Practice for Mental Health & Psychosocial Support in Emergencies and Situations of Adversity, will enable the deployment of a team of ‘global hosts’ to provide support to specific geographic regions and facilitate direct technical assistance to colleagues in the field. The grant will also enable an evaluation of the impact of this community of practice on services for crisis-affected populations.

Grand Challenges Canada, which is funded by the Government of Canada, supports ‘bold ideas with big impact in global health’ that integrate science/technology, social, and business innovation, an approach it refers to as Integrated Innovation™. With its focus in low- and middle-income countries, the MHPSS Network was ideally positioned to benefit from the fund in its work to build and shape good practice and encourage sustainability in the field of mental health and psychosocial support.

Individuals, families and entire communities suffer serious emotional and social consequences from exposure to conflict, disaster and chronic hardships resulting from poverty or epidemics like HIV/AIDS. In such humanitarian settings, it is a priority to improve the psychosocial well-being of children and adults and to address serious mental health problems. The field of mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies is relatively young and rapidly evolving. There is much promising practice in the field, but there is still a gap in the use of existing research evidence to guide services, and also a lack of research on the broad range of interventions required to address the many problems that result in suffering for affected people. With large and small-scale emergencies spread across the globe, it is often difficult for practitioners and policy-makers responding to crises on the ground to have access to the best resources and advice from their peers or researchers in other parts of the world.

As a response to this pressing need, the MHPSS Network established an interactive website (mhpss.net), a platform for colleagues to meet online, engage in discussion through thematic groups, and exchange technical resources through a digital library. Over the past 18 months, mhpss.net has received visitors from 177 countries and over 3000 cities and towns, who spent a total of over 3000 hours browsing resources and information on the site. The planned upgrade of the online platform, with new functions and active ‘hosting’ by technical personnel, seeks to amplify and focus the capability of the network to support practitioners in providing enhanced services on the ground.

Anyone from around the world with an interest in mental health and psychosocial support can join the Network. This includes mental health professionals, policy-makers, community volunteers, spiritual leaders, media personnel, academics and of course people from affected communities.

For more information, please visit www.mhpss.net or http://www.grandchallenges.ca/globalmentalhealth-grantees-en/


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