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.