A GATHERING in Suva this week considered the implications of natural disaster responses that are devoid of psychosocial and mental health considerations.
According to a statement, about 50 mental health experts participated in the technical meeting to share their experiences and identify future areas of work.
Representing governments, NGOs and faith-based organisation (FBOs) and development agencies, the gathering involved those who have experience in post-disaster mental health counselling and support.
While the recent severe flooding in Nadi proved the resilience of those affected and the generosity and goodwill of people who assisted them, there was, however, an absence of specific consideration of people's psychosocial wellbeing and mental health.
"Natural disasters and or man-made crisis cause significant physical, psychological and social suffering to affected populations," psychologist Selina Kuruleca said.
"If not addressed, the psychological and social impacts of emergencies may undermine the long-term mental health and psychosocial well-being of the affected population."
The Pacific Humanitarian Team Protection Cluster Co-ordinator said in such a context, the need for post-disaster mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) was critical.
"And so we need to prepare ourselves to ensure mental health considerations and psychosocial support are integrated into our humanitarian responses, including in the activities of the United Nations," she said.
The meeting discussed existing MHPS programs with professionals and organisations; took stock of good practice and reviewed international guidelines, norms and standards around MHPS and identified areas where additional work needs to be done to identify capacity building needs.