Heartbeat of Humanity: Scalable Psychological Interventions

  • May 5, 2021
May 5, 2021

“In communities in emergency settings or humanitarian crises, they tend to have the least developed mental health systems, and they tend to be the least accessible, even if they are present.” – Sarah Harrison, IFRC Psychosocial Centre Technical Advisor.

In this episode of Heartbeat of Humanity, technical advisor at the IFRC Psychosocial Centre Sarah Harrison explores the term ‘Scalable Psychological Interventions’, also known as low-intensity psychological interventions. This episode does not include guests, but rather takes a deep dive into Scalable Psychological Interventions, explaining what they are, where they come from, who they are used for, and how they can be used.

Sarah first defines the mental health treatment gap, which means that there are more people in the world who need mental health care than we can reach through conventional or traditional health and social care methods.

“We know that communities and families living in adversity or crisis tend to also be in areas where they have the least developed formal mental health care and social care systems. They also have the greatest number of barriers affecting people from accessing care and treatment,” says Sarah.

These barriers can include physical inaccessibility, from either stigma or lack of infrastructure due to conflict or natural disasters. To increase accessibility to mental health services, task sharing or shifting has been implemented to build capacity, skills and knowledge of community people, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers and paraprofessionals to take on the role of providing emotional and practical support, and in some cases mental health treatment to a fellow community member. Task sharing or shifting means that community volunteers are empowered to provide these services rather than an affected individual seeing a psychotherapist, psychologist, social worker or doctor, which is often not accessible in emergency settings. This is part of a broader approach to increase MHPSS accessibility by decentralizing and de-institutionalizing the provision of treatment and care for people with mental health conditions or people in distress.

Sarah continues the exploration of ‘Scalable Psychological Interventions’ by dividing the term into two components: ‘scalable’ and ‘psychological intervention.’ She conceptualizes each part of the term in relation to its utilization and practices in the field.

She also talks about the several Scalable Psychological Interventions currently being used and how they can be used in different work settings. These include Thinking Healthy, Problem Management+, Group Problem Management+, Group Interpersonal Therapy for Depression, Self-Help+ and Step by Step. She also talks about STRENGTHS Consortium, which the IFRC PS Centre is also a part of.

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