Mental health and humanitarian law highlighted on World Health Day

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative posted a blog on mental health and international humanitarian law in observance of World Health Day, April 7, 2017. This year the World Health Organization (WHO) used the day to highlight global mental health concerns and encourage people to get help. According to WHO, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. More than 300 million people live with depression, an increase of  more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.

Mental health issues are of particular concern in war-torn regions like Syria, wrote HHI’s Steve Wilkinson, senior legal researcher with the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action, in the blog.  A March 6, 2017 Save the Children study found widespread toxic stress among Syrian refugees, and stated that the adults and children studied believed bombing and shelling to be the main cause of psychological stress in children’s daily lives.

“It is important to note that the psychological impacts of armed conflict are most commonly examined from a medical or public health perspective and their relevance to international humanitarian law is often overlooked,” Wilkinson wrote. The blog explores some of the issues and challenges that he wrote warrant further exploration.

Read the HHI blog: Incidental yet Monumental: Incorporating Mental Health Impacts into IHL Proportionality Assessments