Integrating Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Peacebuilding

There is a long history of violence and armed conflict in the Philippines involving insurgents, clan militias, criminal groups, and recently, violent extremist groups.


Complex emergencies due to conflict and violence increase the rates of a wide range of mental health problems and diminish the capacity of organizations to provide adequate services. In the worst cases, this can lead to suicide, destructive behavior, burn-out, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, or illness. In less severe cases, individuals demonstrate the inability to function, decreased motivation and agency, and increased risk of illness and substance abuse. 

Why is it so hard to offer support?

Peacebuilding and humanitarian organizations often lack the resources to offer trauma-relief programs on a scale that is required in emergencies. The magnitude of affected populations and the destruction of social systems and infrastructure often render standard pharmacological and psychotherapeutic services, including one-on-one interventions, inefficient and, in some cases, unrealistic.


There is also increasing evidence and acknowledgment that military and criminal justice responses are insufficient in creating deep and lasting individual transformation among ex-combats and their families if psychosocial issues are not properly addressed. Strategies to tackle the structural factors linked to violent extremism, such as reducing poverty and improving socioeconomic situations and education, remain inadequate in and by itself.


IAHV advocates for a new paradigm on how we understand and deal with trauma and violent extremism, which is fundamentally human, delving into the psychosocial roots of the challenge.


IAHV Philippines has been conducting programs that integrate mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) across the peacebuilding-humanitarian-development nexus.

Some of our key activities include:

  • Conducted introductory peacebuilding workshops in 3 ISIS-affected areas in Lanao del Sur (Butig, Pagayawan, and Saguiaran) that brought together the Armed Forces of the Philippines (103rd Brigade, AFP), 160 members f the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), 36 Maute-ISIS returnees, and local government representatives in joint peacebuilding activities – the first time these groups have been brought together, according to the AFP.


  • With the financial support from UNDP Philippines, conducted a Youth Peacebuilding Leadership Training (YPLT) for 18 Muslim youth leaders who were directly affected by the 2017 Marawi Siege and are members of the Thuma Ko Kapagingud Service.

With financial support from UNDP Philippines, launched the SKY Campus Program at Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan, which aims at teaching university students in conflict-affected areas to (1) release stress, master emotions, withstand radicalization and peer pressure, and solve conflicts using non-violent action; and (2) use emotional intelligence, social connection, service, and leadership for personal well-being, social change and peacebuilding.



On 12 January 2020, Taal Volcano erupted killing 39 people and covering several provinces with ash. IAHV distributed relief goods and 7,500 pcs. of N95 masks to the most affected communities.


As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the Philippines, healthcare workers are disproportionately affected, accounting for 13%-16% of confirmed cases, due to the lack of personal protective equipment. As of 20 May 2020, IAHV has distributed 36,622 pcs. of N95/KN95 masks to more than 100 frontline institutions (hospitals, army, police, etc.) across 16 provinces.

SKY Resilience Program: Stress Management and Mental Resilience for Military Cadets and Officers

Defense and law enforcement are considered high-stress professions – due to regular exposure to high-risk situations involving human misery, violence and potentially life-threatening situations. The prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental illnesses (e.g. anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies) are high among military soldiers and police, and because of the stigma around showing any kind of physical and psychological weakness, these mental health conditions are rarely recognized and treated, let alone prevented. This failure to effectively address the mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) needs of the soldiers and police compromises their ability to focus, make good judgement calls and perform optimally.


the SKY Resilience Program (SKY)

The SKY Resilience Program (SKY) is a total well-being and resilience training tailored for people in high-stress professions, who are regularly exposed to high-risk situations involving violence and potentially life-threatening situations. The SKY Resilience Program, when done as a group, improves trust, teamwork and builds a shared vision with ownership towards a common goal.


The SKY Resilience Program offers an experiential curriculum that includes interactive group processes, physical exercise, SKY® breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, positive psychology, emotional intelligence, and leadership and service learning. It is divided into 2 phases over an 8-week timeframe. Phase 1 includes an intensive workshop of 2.5-hour sessions done in four consecutive days. Phase 2 consists of 1-hour, once-a-week follow-up sessions done in 7 weeks.

Institutions that have participated in the SKY Resilience Program include:

    • Philippine Military Academy
    • Regional Support Training Unit, Philippine National Police Regional Office in the Cordillera