Education in Emergencies & Mental Health

Education in Emergencies is a powerful vehicle to promote the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people trapped in crises. In humanitarian responses, EiE can serve as an anchor of connection, meaning and positive relationships for children, young people and their communities.

Good Mental Health is the state of well-being in which a person realises her or his own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life and is able to contribute to the community.1 Positive mental health in children and young people is reflected in a positive sense of identity, ability to manage thoughts and emotions, capacity to build relationships, and ability to learn.2 Mental health is critical to children and young people’s success in school and life.

The mental health of children and young people can be disproportionately affected and easily overlooked in the context of emergencies. The amount of damage, destruction and disruption of school and family routines caused by the crisis can be overwhelming and stressful for children, young people and their caregivers, with impacts on mental health and wellbeing. Importantly, not all children and young people respond in the same ways. Some can react right away, while others may show signs of difficulty much later. Some might have more severe, longer-lasting reactions.

To address these effects, the field of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) aims to support and promote children and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, and prevent or care for mental health problems.3 Under this umbrella, Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) helps children and young people develop the social and emotional skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, show empathy, maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.4 

Integrating MHPSS and SEL in schools and through education in emergency situations is vital to promoting children and young people’s wellbeing and learning. It can provide them with supportive environments, help them develop essential life skills and build caring relationships with peers and adults. Moreover, this approach can also support the mental health of teachers and caregivers and help them acquire the skills to support others. 

What We Know

Urgent Actions

color-humps

GET THE FACTS

Emergencies impact children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, affecting their ability to learn and thrive

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, children and young people globally were already living a mental heal crisis5

Sustained adversity threatens children and young people’s mental health, learning, and wellbeing


Further Reading

*The members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies contributed their knowledge and expertise to this document. Contact us.

SOURCES
  1.  WHO (2004). Promoting mental health: concepts, emerging evidence, practice: summary report
  2. UNICEF (2021a). The State of the World’s Children 2021: On My Mind – Promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health.
  3.  Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) (2016). INEE Background Paper on Psychosocial Support and Social and Emotional Learning for Children and Youth in Emergency Settings.
  4. Ibid
  5. UNICEF (2021a). The State of the World’s Children 2021: On My Mind – Promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health.
  6. Shonkoff JP, Boyce WT, McEwen BS (2009). Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, and the Childhood Roots of Health Disparities: Building a New Framework for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  7. Shonkoff JP, Richter L, van der Gaag J, Bhutta ZA.(2012). An integrated scientific framework for child survival and early childhood development. Pediatrics.
  8. INEE (2016). INEE Background Paper on Psychosocial Support and Social and Emotional Learning for Children and Youth in Emergency Settings.
  9. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2014). Adverse childhood experiences and the lifelong consequences of trauma.
  10. National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2019). Childhood traumatic grief: Information for school personnel teaching military children.
  11. McDonald, A. (2017). Invisible Wounds: The Impact of Six Years of War on the Mental Health of Syria’s Children
  12. OECD (2020). Improving Education Outcomes for Students Who Have Experienced Trauma and/or Adversity. OECD Education Working Paper No. 242
  13. Masten, A. S., & Narayan, A. J. (2012). Child development in the context of disaster, war, and terrorism: pathways of risk and resilience.
  14. Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) (2007). IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings.
  15.  INEE (2016). INEE Background Paper on Psychosocial Support and Social and Emotional Learning for Children and Youth in Emergency Settings.
  16. UNICEF (2021a). The State of the World’s Children 2021: On My Mind – Promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health.
Additional Resources