Psychosocial Support


As a compound term, “psychosocial  support” occurs less frequently in the document collection than other single word concepts. However, the growing importance and acknowledgment of mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian action is reflected by the dedication of a Forced Migration Review special issue to the theme in February 2021

“Mental”, “health” and “care” are terms closely related to the concept of “psychosocial support”. Humanitarian actors commonly bundle these terms under the acronym MHPSS (Mental Health and Psychosocial Support).  The frequency with which psychosocial support is described as “basic” and used in relation to “including” further suggests that it forms part of a broader set of services that are provided and received. 

The frequency with which “quality” and “appropriate” is used may suggest a need to reflect on the effectiveness and relevance of psychosocial support in humanitarian settings and specific contexts.


  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of community-based and individual psychosocial support in humanitarian settings?
  • Humanitarian crises can be highly stressful and traumatic environments, yet there appears to be a tendency to refer to only “basic” psychosocial support in humanitarian documents. Why might this be the case? Do you think humanitarians should prioritise better quality MHPSS in humanitarian settings, and if so, how?
  • Do humanitarian actors have a duty of care to provide MHPSS for their staff? What are the challenges and opportunities? 
  • What are or could be the success indicators for MHPSS in humanitarian settings?

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Please note: The overview on this page represents a first summary and exploratory analysis of the concept, proposed by the HE core team for discussion, on the basis of preliminary linguistic data. It is not the full concept entry which will be based on rigorous linguistic methodology and collaboration with humanitarian practitioners and experts.

Coming soon: Expanded concept explanations, visualisations and analysis for this and 17 other COVID-19 related concepts.

Psychosocial support has been used more frequently in humanitarian documents over time, with a steady increase since 2005.

Psychosocial support appears frequently in documents from Africa and the Middle East, two regions affected heavily by conflict.

Psychosocial support is referred to 35 and 45 times in the 2011 and 2018 Sphere Handbooks (a project/service provider) respectively. Documents from the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement also frequently mention psychosocial support, which is an important aspect of the Movement’s work, with a dedicated Psychosocial Centre and an emphasis on community-based psychosocial support in their operational strategy

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