The mental health toll of crisis

  • July 5, 2019

The mental health toll of crisis

Mental health and psychosocial needs increase dramatically as a result of armed conflicts, natural disasters and emergencies. Such events often take place repeatedly over many years, as emergencies grow in complexity and duration; and may increase in frequency and intensity in the future following climate change and extreme weather events.

People are exposed to separation from or loss of loved ones, loss of homes, property, livelihoods, severe violations of human dignity such as sexual and gender-based violence, torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Social and community support systems erode and material resources that affected people need for coping and recovery are damaged or destroyed.

Rates of mental health conditions tend to double after emergencies. The World Health Organization estimates that and that after a conflict, more than 1 in 5 people will have a mental health condition. In low and middle-income countries, where the majority of armed conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies occur, more than three-quarters of people with severe mental health conditions do not receive any treatment. Research has indicated different prevalences of mental health conditions in specific contexts, but the global estimates presented are more than sufficient to demonstrate the need for much greater attention to be paid to the issue.

According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people with approximately 800.000 completed suicides per year. Death by suicide is a grave public health concern affecting families, communities, and society at large.

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Bangladesh. Cox’s Bazar district, 2017.
Photo: Mirva Helenius / IFRC