Strengthening community-based psychosocial support systems through community structures (CDCs and Outreach Volunteers)
The levels of mental distress among adults and children in Lebanon, both nationals and refugees, are rising due to the worsening socio-economic crisis, coupled with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the large-scale blast in Beirut. Women, men, girls and boys face increasing difficulties in accessing services for MHPSS because of overstretched and limited services, socio-economic constraints and stigma surrounding mental illness. The capacity of the health, social and educational systems to respond to the high MHPSS needs is insufficient. While specialized services for MHPSS exist, they are also scarce and mostly focused in urban locations. For instance, case management services though which, mental health and psychosocial support is provided to those in need is overstretched, due to the high demand and the limited workforce in Lebanon, as well as the tight resources allocated to this service. As such, case management agencies no longer have the capacity to support all those in need, and therefore, allocate their efforts in providing case management only to high-risk cases.
Alongside the adverse economic impact of COVID-19, is the social impact on refugee well-being. With regular lockdowns since March 2020, refugees have lost the various means through which they used to seek psychosocial support such as community interactions and social gatherings due the need to physically distance and restrict mobility. To further compound challenges, some services became restricted or completely unavailable. For instance, community center activities, face-to-face community group meetings, community activities and community outreach such as home visits, info and awareness sessions by volunteers had to move from in-person to being carried out over social media and by phone.
Based on above, there is a need to strengthen and expand non-specialized community-based mental health and psychosocial support by capacitating the community with the necessary skills that will support them to cope with internal and external stressors, strengthen resilience to cope with difficulties and improve daily functioning, enhance interpersonal relations.
This will be achieved by building the capacity of select community members who are already mobilized in the humanitarian response such as refugee Outreach Volunteers (OVs), to support others in their community to handle stress and anxiety. It will also be done by enhancing the quality of life-skills packages provided at UNHCR-supported Community Development Centers (CDCs) targeting adolescents and youth that will equip them with skills to take care of themselves. In both interventions, robust monitoring and evaluation components are important to ensure smooth implementation of the intervention and measurement of the extent of improved psychosocial impact on persons benefitting from them. Moreover, all developed or adapted guidance and implemented activities will ensure that COVID-19 measures and precautions are practiced.
In addition to reducing risks, building skills and strengthening refugee resilience, this project is also expected to ease the pressure on the already stretched specialized individual services and case management. It will also help in the identification and referral of persons in need of specialized support.