Research priorities for mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings

Tol, Wietse A. ; Patel, Vikram ; Tomlinson, Mark ; Baingana, Florence ; Galappatti, Ananda ; Panter-Brick, Catherine ; Silove, Derrick ; Sondorp, Egbert ; Wessells, Michael ; Van Ommeren, Mark (2011-09-20)

CITATION: Tol, W. A., et al. 2011. Research priorities for mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings. PLoS Medicine, 8(9): e1001096, doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001096.

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There has been a great need to develop a research agenda to strengthen mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian settings; prior research in this area has had limited inputs from practitioners. We developed a consensus-based research agenda for the next ten years through inputs from an interdisciplinary group of academics, policy makers, and practitioners (n = 82) representing regions where humanitarian crises occur. Participants reached a high level of agreement on the ten most highly prioritized research questions, which consisted of questions related to: problem analysis (four questions on identifying stressors, problems, and protective factors from the perspective of affected populations), mental health and psychosocial support interventions (three questions on sociocultural adaptation and on effectiveness of family- and school-based prevention), research and information management (two questions on assessment methods and indicators for monitoring and evaluation), and mental health and psychosocial support context (one question on whether interventions address locally perceived needs). This research agenda emphasizes the generation of practical knowledge that could translate to immediate tangible benefits for programming in humanitarian settings, rather than addressing the key debates that have dominated the academic literature. Addressing this research agenda requires a better alignment between researchers and practitioners, attention to perspectives of populations affected by humanitarian crises, and sensitivity to sociocultural context.

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