Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Psychosocial support is a simple tool for protection and community development

Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1] PhD

An increase in natural disasters and conflicts, an awareness of disaster-affected peoples needs, and a group of people that assured that the human rights of disaster affected people are protected has created the synergy for psychosocial support to be acknowledged and placed at the forefront of disaster response.

This synergy has created guidelines and standards that are to be upheld in responding to a disaster. But, what is community based psychosocial social support? Form my optic it is a set of activities that involves psychosocial actions, planning and establishing of  “place”.

Psychosocial actions are the result of community members joining together to identify those activities that impact the quality of life. After a disaster, community mapping, and gathering of data through inclusive community meetings leads to identifying projects that will increase voluntarism, contribute to change, and fosters social planning.

Psychosocial planning consist of three phases: In the first place establish dialogue between all segments of the community, decide the risks and resilience factors, and describe strategies to influence leadership and external stakeholders to develop policies that will impact eh affected-community. Secondly, move from developing policies to implementing policies by identifying programs that are needed to address risks factors and the mechanics of developing the program, Thirdly, engage the community members in activities that will address the needs of all segments of the community. These activities lead people by defining their “place” by focusing on feelings, motives and purposes of the affected-people.

Community based psychosocial support is a developmental cycle by transforming victims into practitioners, and new arrivals into volunteers. There changing knowledge, skills and communication within and without are part of a developing identity--- a re-established place.

[1] Dr. Prewitt Diaz is a Visiting Professor and Director of the Disaster Law and Policy Center, School of Law, University of Puerto Rico. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the Indian Red Cross Society for the development of psychosocial support programs in several Indian States. 

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