Globally, one in four individuals are affected by a mental disorder in their lifetime, and over 70% of the population have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. Despite these alarming statistics, two-thirds of people with a known mental disorder do not seek help.
During May, RefugePoint joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Mental Health Awareness Month is dedicated to increasing awareness and fighting the stigma around mental illness. This is especially important for RefugePoint’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) program, which is committed to supporting client and staff wellbeing in the field. We know that poor mental health results in psychological distress, which can impair social interaction and daily functioning. For clients, receiving mental health support through counseling is just as essential as business support, food assistance, or education support. The purpose of staff well-being is to support healthy human beings within the workplace, improve their quality of work, and sustain a productive workforce.
The MHPSS program also provides support to RefugePoint’s counseling team in Nairobi by building their capacity using a training model based on trauma-informed principles. Through the program, our staff has begun to transition to an organizational trauma-informed care model, which has long been recognized in the field of psychology as the gold standard for service provision. This model for organizational change promotes resilience in clients and staff and values survivor wisdom and perspective. Key principles of this approach include organizational safety, trustworthiness, transparency, cultural sensitivity, collaboration, and empowerment.
The MHPSS program has been particularly attentive to how the Covid-19 pandemic has been affecting the mental health of clients and staff. The pandemic has changed working and living conditions, created barriers to accessing critical resources, and contributed to fear, uncertainty, isolation, grief, income insecurity, burnout, worsening of existing mental illness, substance use, and anxiety. All of these can create heavier mental burdens.
As the pandemic emerged, the MHPSS program provided support to RefugePoint’s operations in various ways, such as facilitating regular discussions with different programs around challenges and resilience, providing regular mental health resources, and reaching out to individual staff on an as-needed basis. The counseling team has also worked on adapting to new ways of providing client support, such as using teletherapy. To further meet the needs of increasingly distressed clients, our staff in the Urban Refugee Protection Program (URPP) will now complete Psychological First Aid training and Self-Care training in order to better triage clients and support individuals in the expansion of their roles.
RefugePoint regularly engages in multiple working groups and strategic planning sessions, which contribute to drafting an agency-specific Covid-19 MHPSS Preparedness and Response strategy to respond to the needs of the organization and share with other organizations. RefugePoint remains committed to increasing awareness around mental health and providing support for MHPSS during Mental Health Awareness Month and year-round.