Mental Health in Conflict

Armed conflict and organised violence cause and amplify psychosocial stressors (e.g. poverty, malnutrition, inadequate housing and social isolation), which adversely affect people’s mental health and wellbeing (Miller & Rasmussen, 2010). Conflict-affected populations have been shown to have a higher prevalence of both common and severe mental disorders compared to the general population (Tol et al., 2011). Treatment gaps are widened especially in conflict affected areas of the MENA region due to inadequate infrastructure and human resources (Colidron et al., 2013). A recent assessment of a refugee population in North and Bekaa region in Lebanon reported a significant 65% impairment in daily functioning due to untreated trauma experiences and feelings of hopelessness in the individuals. The situation has been shown to be particularly grave for refugees and internally displaced persons, with treatment gaps reaching over 90% in some areas (Llosa, 2014). At a systems level, there is limited government spending on mental health (Palestine: 2.5%; Lebanon: 5%); minimal inpatient facilities, day care or residential facilities; a severe lack of staff and no mental health law.

In line with the WHO’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020, Palestine and Lebanon have begun to design and implement their nation’s own mental health strategy by investing in delivering affordable and equitable mental health care for both domestic and refugee populations. Unfortunately, there is a lack of systematic mental health research conducted in these regions, due to capacity issues. To address this research gap, this project aims to build interdisciplinary research capability for mental health in both Palestine and Lebanon.

The Mental Health workstream has produced a report, Training Needs Assessment for Mental Health Research in War and Conflict, which contains extremely interesting and important findings regarding training needs for mental health research in the West Bank, PalestineThe needs assessment was led by Prof Rita Giacaman, Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University (ICPH/BZU) and her team Weeam Hammoudeh and Rawan Kafri, and supported by King’s College London colleagues, Hanna Kienzler, Alessandro Massazza and Nancy Tamimi.

Read further publications from the Institute of Community and Public Health at BZU here.


Across all four work streams, four common deliverables are embedded:

  • Curricula and courses will be co-developed and co-delivered in local contexts

  • Training will be focused on faculty leaders and will use a variety of pedagogical approaches (from certificate level modules to full Masters degrees tailor made for the MENA region)

  • Both UK and MENA partners will be strongly encouraged to co-publish in high impact journals to build academic depth and ensure the translation of research to policy

  • A focus on innovative learning technologies and informatics – such as blended learning, online and virtual learning