The West African Ebola epidemic is unlike anything we have seen before. The virus has spread over several countries and is likely to continue. The local healthcare systems are overwhelmed by the scale of the outbreak. The disease is highly infectious and has a high mortality rate. Rumours, misconceptions and misinformation about the disease and how to prevent it are widespread.
Early on in the response to the disease, psychosocial support (PSS) was identified as a priority. PSS is not only vital to ensure the well-being of the affected population, but also to counter-act the threats to public health and safety that fear, stigmatisation and misconception poses. Furthermore, everybody involved in the response, from expat staff, local staff and volunteers, are working under unusually stressful conditions.
Providing PSS during an outbreak of such a deadly and infectious disease is not quite like providing PSS during other more well-known types of crisis. In order to support staff, volunteers and delegates responding to the outbreak, the PS Centre has developed a briefing note on PSS in the context of Ebola. The target group is primarily PSS delegates who work to support patients, affected communities, along with staff and volunteers. At the same time, the messages in this briefing note can be helpful for all staff and volunteers who are in contact with patients, relatives and personally feel the strain of working and living during the epidemic.
The first part of the note deals with overall issues that any delegate, staff or volunteer responding to Ebola is likely to encounter, while the second part contains information, recommendations and suggestions for providing PSS. Other useful documents and information are included in the following briefing package, available here for download in English and French.