Peace Sessions: Putting Psychosocial support to the fore

Sept. 24, 2019

Discussions at the Expert Peace Session
War Child held the second edition of our ‘Peace Sessions - Expert’ event in The Hague this week - a unique opportunity to gain specialist knowledge on the impact of war on children. A number of key recommendations were generated at the event - which we will present at the International Conference on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Crisis Situations, held in Amsterdam next month…

Developing recommendations

Leading mental health and humanitarian experts came together this week to explore the topic of acting early with psychosocial support in emergency settings. The War Child ‘Peace Sessions - Expert’ event saw participants work to develop recommendations to take to next month’s International Conference on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Crisis Situations in Amsterdam.

Expert analysis

Several policy recommendations emerged from the group discussions - including calls for stronger collaboration between NGOs and the private sector, improved coordination on the ground and more investment in psychosocial support training for non-professionals.

Each discussion was led by an expert moderator - including Christine Pirenne, Humanitarian Aid lead at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and mental health expert John Mahoney (WHO, Department of Health UK), who now serves as our Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

John Mahoney as moderator at the Peace Sessions Expert

One of our moderators: mental health expert John Mahoney

Photo: War Child

Peace Sessions: Expert - Eamonn Hanson

Eamonn Hanson leading a discussion at the Peace Sessions

Photo: War Child

A concerted effort

War Child advocacy manager Eamonn Hanson led a discussion which explored how different humanitarian sectors can work together more closely for increased impact. Suzan Lemont, European Regional Representative and Founder of the Netherlands Expressive Arts Association, suggested that part of the answer lies in the development of a robust coordinating apparatus - or managing body - on the ground.

“We need to start preparing now for future needs,” Lemont said. “We currently have some cooperation between the different agencies and stakeholders, but it’s often limiting. Two agencies team up and they shut everyone else out.”

“Yet what we need is for all of these lines to come together and for people from different areas - be that food, infrastructure, money or mental health care - to be on a team that is ready to provide a consolidated emergency response.”

Peace Sessions: Expert Hanson

Clynical Psychologist and researcher Kenneth Miller leading a session on child development factors

Photo: War Child

Peace Sessions: Expert Outcomes brainstorm

Outcomes of the brainstorm sessions

Photo: War Child

Beyond the child

The importance of the child’s wider world was cited by clinical psychologist and War Child researcher Kenneth Miller Ph.D. Key child development factors - including supportive adults, a stable environment, physical safety, nutrition and education - have to be addressed in tandem with psychosocial interventions, according to this group.

“It’s not about blaming, it’s about protecting all ages from the start."
Kenneth Miller - Ph.D. Key child development factors

“It’s been a recurring theme,” explained Miller. “Current efforts to support children affected by war focus on children affected by war. Yet findings show time and time again that we need to tackle the wider support network - particularly the high rates of chronic stress amongst parents and caregivers.”

Mark Jordans giving the final speech at Peace Sessions: Expert

Director of Researh & Development Professor Mark Jordans giving the day's key recommendations

Photo: War Child

Conversation topic Acting Early

Acting Early theme conversation topic and questions

Photo: War Child

Key recommendations

Professor Mark Jordans - our Director of Research and Development - brought the event to a close with a synthesis of the day’s key findings. Professor Jordans will lead War Child’s delegation to the October event - where he and his team will present six key recommendations:

  1. De-fragmentation and coordination of humanitarian organisations and actors
  2. Increased efforts to adopt a genuine community approach
  3. Sufficient workforce - adequate people trained for psychosocial support to take place
  4. A ‘systems approach’ to engage with both children and their direct environment i.e. parents, family and caregivers
  5. Increased focus on prevention - act early and invest money in children’s mental health in the immediate aftermath of crisis
  6. Research - the need to synthesise existing evidence to push this topic to where it should be - and create space for new research projects. What works and how it works

Led by the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, The International Conference on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Crisis Situations will take place in Amsterdam on 7 and 8 October 2019.