International Medical Corps

Radically scaling mental health services to empower crisis-affected youth

Take Action

Connect with us

To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Every day, children are born into a world of relentless conflict, disaster and inequality. With 31 million children and youth displaced around the world—living out nightmares daily—how can we help them dream a new reality?With experience on the frontlines of disasters, and as a pioneer in innovating mental health services for people surviving complex humanitarian emergencies, International Medical Corps will generate hope and create lasting change among 150,000 displaced children, youth and their communities, in some of the most underserved places in the world. So they can believe beyond their circumstances and realize the dreams they deserve, we will train and mentor providers, parents and volunteers, to integrate mental health into general healthcare and offer activities that support child development, skills building, artistic expression and physical exercise. We will also develop and disseminate effective resources that promote wellbeing and enhance social cohesion—ultimately impacting millions of people.

Problem Statement

According to UNICEF, there are some 31 million displaced and refugee children and youth around the world[1,2]. These children have an increased risk of exposure to violence, family separation, loss of community, early marriage and child labor. Yet despite nearly half of the global burden of disease for young people being attributable to mental disorders, their needs are often forgotten or ignored in the midst of crisis [3]. With a growing number of emergencies and conflicts and the impact of disasters intensifying in scope and scale, we urgently need to invest in their capacity to cope with and overcome trauma. This investment will generate high economic returns as it will benefit youth in the present, into future adult life and for the next generation of children[4]. We firmly and boldly believe that our proven, integrated approach to mental health in humanitarian contexts will address this detrimental gap. Youth, especially adolescence, is a critical phase of human development: a time of significant change, transition from childhood and dependence on families to independence, and exploration of identity and engagement in society. Over the past decade, we have implemented programs that integrate mental health into general healthcare in 15 countries. We promote wellbeing through psychosocial support activities that teach life skills, offer recreational outlets and build social networks. And when integrated into general healthcare, our programs work—with Syrian youth in Jordan, for example, these services increase community interconnectedness, problem-solving skills, confidence and healthy behaviors, and reduce depressive mood, anxiety and negative feelings.

Solution Overview

The call to action is clear[4]. Over five years, our project team will strategically integrate mental health-related programs into existing structures to reach 150,000 displaced children and youth in six conflict- and disaster-affected countries, which may include Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria and Ukraine. Each country context where we will bring our approach to scale will be different, yet will follow five key steps to ensure a broad network of partners and collaborators around common goals and principles: 1.Establish strong headquarters-level and in-country leadership teams 2.Use a situational analysis and participatory assessment to identify coverage, gaps and resources, and gather information from youth, parents and providers to identify their challenges and needs 3.Adapt globally endorsed and evidence-informed guidance, tools and training curricula 4.Identify partners and existing structures, such as organizations that already work with children and/or vulnerable populations, and institutions such as schools5.Train and build the capacity of health workers, community support workers, youth mentors, community-based organizations, academic institutions and government agenciesOur implementation of emergency health programs and advocacy in Lebanon, for example, led to the Ministry of Public Health’s National Mental Health Strategy in 2015, which provides national level guidelines and policies that inform the services provided there today. This example demonstrates the power of working within existing health structures and partnering with Ministries of Health and UN agencies. Similarly, we will engage our ongoing professional collaborations in the global mental health community to replicate our boldness and expand our impact.

+ Read More

More Solutions Like This

Highly Ranked

Mental health care

National Council for Behavioral Health

Improving the Mental Health of Young People in America

United States

Mental health care

UT Southwestern Medical Center

Eliminating Depression in Youth: A Comprehensive Public Health Approach

United States

Mental health care

Partners In Health

Unchained: Community-empowering, scalable mental health care for low-resource settings

Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone

Mental health care

Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI)

Filling the Mental Health Gap: Psychosocial Wellbeing for Africa’s Children

Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania

Mental health care

United Charitable

INSPIR3 Mental Wellness Center

United States

Mental health care

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

H.O.P.E: National Mental Wellness Tour and Black House Rock Toolkits

United States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

Mental health care

Boulder Crest Retreat Foundation

PATHH: A Transformative Approach to Hopelessness, Despair, and Suicide

United States

Load More