Monday, July 15, 2013

Psychosocial support paves the way for a new life

Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1] PhD

Psychosocial support is a cross cutting issue in the SPHERE Project 2011. The main role of psychosocial support is to assure that the emotional needs of affected-persons are addressed as they recover from major disaster or conflicts. Community based psychosocial support is a tool that provides support and equal assess to services to the oppressed and the oppressors. It is participatory in nature and providers a mechanism where all segments of the community are able to identify the risk and resilience factors in their geographic, ecological, cultural, economical, spiritual, social and psychological place. The activities provides a space for all members of a community to identify their losses, what they need to rebuild, their social capital and what the affected-communities need from the outsiders and  other stakeholders.

The approach has two predominant segments: a clinical and a psychosocial segment. The clinical approach begins with psychological first aid, and then the small groups of disaster-affected people that need further clinical evaluation are referred for counseling. In a small number of cases, medical personnel that may use medication to alleviate the traumatic stress, anxiety and depression raising from the difficulty of coping with the disasters and the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness experienced by some.

The psychosocial support segment provides for participatory community assessment. Most of this work is qualitative and relies on community mapping and narratives using pictures as stimuli for community members to express their needs. Volunteers are the backbone of this segment. They will develop safe space for children to play, and informal schooling for adolescents, women, and the elderly to develop skills to rebuild their “place”. Slowly, slowly, the disaster-affected people regain their desire to move ahead and enhance their resilience. The narratives with small groups every six-months give a glimpse of the movement made by the affected-communities from their own perspectives, and needs to continue to change and to be modified.

Psychosocial support is synonymous of constant activities, increased communication, ownership for the process and product, voluntarism and re-establishment of place. Psychosocial support  paves the  path to a bright new world!

[1] Dr. Prewitt Diaz is President and CEO of the Center on Psychosocial Support in Disasters. AlexandriaVA. He is the recipient of 2008 APA International Humanitarian Award.