#MentalHealthMatters: Humanitarian Hands-on Tool

Child on crutches crosses a muddy ditch, image of mobile phone showing bridge
Author:CBM UK
Posted on: Wednesday, 6th February, 2019

Ben Adams, Mental Health Advisor at CBM and PhD fellow Trinity College Dublin, writes about mental health and CBM's Humanitarian Hands-on Tool. This article was originally published by the Mental Health Innovation Network

In humanitarian crisis people with disabilities are often the most marginalized and the barriers they face daily become amplified for numerous reasons such as pre-existing poverty, inaccessibility of early warning messages, disruption of support networks, increased difficulty in accessing basic humanitarian relief and recovery services, and a lack of appropriate services.

At the same time emergencies, disasters and conflict can increase the number of people with disabilities, both long and short-term due to injuries sustained, trauma and lack of effective services/supports.

Historically humanitarian response has taken a predominantly medical approach focussing on physical injury and illness whilst rarely considering disability inclusion resulting in the further exclusion of people with disabilities.

Developments in evidence and policy, and the emphasis on a rights based approach to development have led to a significant shift in focus. Humanitarian actors are now working to ensure emergency response is more comprehensive (bio-psycho-social-spiritual) and inclusive of vulnerable or marginalised groups such as people with disabilities including psycho-social disabilities.

The stress and trauma experienced during and after humanitarian emergencies can cause distress and in some people lead to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and even psychosis. Persons with disabilities may be at increased risk of developing such conditions. This can result in negative coping mechanisms, such as abuse of alcohol or drugs. Additionally, humanitarian emergencies often further exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities.

In recent years international policies, frameworks and standards have recognised these facts. The forthcoming IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the New Urban Agenda and the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, all provide a clear understanding of the need for inclusion and what must be done to address it.  But, for actors carrying out this work on the ground, what is very often missing is the ‘nuts and bolts’ information on HOW to translate these policy recommendations and guidelines into action. The Humanitarian Hands-on Tool (HHoT) aims to help fill this gap.

Features of the HHoT app include:

  • One page ‘task cards’ that are fully searchable and logically interlinked for ease of use, these cards can be shared, printed or saved as favourites.
  • The apps entire content can be downloaded to any mobile device and is then available without internet or mobile connection.
  • It updates automatically on re-connection and input and feedback is invited from users to ensure the tool grows while staying focused, relevant and up-to-date.
  • It has recently undergone a review process to include psycho-social disabilities, people with mental health conditions and MHPSS (this process is ongoing and further cards will be added).

Many people have been involved in the development of HHoT with over 40 key stakeholders such as experts by experience, DPO representatives, key-sector representatives and technical experts acting as consultants or providing desk-based feedback. The app was also officially audited for accessibility by an organisation who specialise in this area and represent people with disabilities.

Crucially, people with disabilities and their representative organisations are rarely consulted during preparedness and prevention and neither during emergency response, recovery and building back better. Without their input, full inclusion is not possible hence, the need for action based guidance that promotes inclusion of all people with disabilities, including those with mental health conditions and psycho-social disabilities.

Although disability inclusion is the driver behind the concept, inclusive practice excludes nobody and will make the resulting interventions more accessible to many other often-marginalised people (including older people, children and pregnant women). CBM hopes that HHoT will become the ‘go-to’ resource for all agencies planning and implementing relief and recovery work that is inclusive of everyone.

HHoT is a living tool that will continue to develop and grow. CBM intends to keep building upon the tool to ensure it is as fully comprehensive as possible, and we would love to hear your feedback!

Back

Keep up to date! Enter your email to receive information about our vital work, appeals and events as well as how you can make a difference.

Please complete the fields below: