Mental Health Support Campaign, Derna, Libya
Following the devastation in the Eastern province of Libya – particularly in Derna – due to heavy flooding caused by Storm Daniel on 10 and 11 September 2023, the need to provide psychological support to the displaced community in these areas was essential, for both adults and children.
With our long-term operations and presence in Libya, we have felt the strong need to take initiative and do our part to support the population.
We have been in direct contact with the Disaster Response Committee to offer support and discuss their needs. The Committee has officially communicated its pressing need for a mental health support programme for the affected population. In response, we concur and committed to implement a programme to address this critical requirement. This programme was initiated on 22 September, and it is the first of its kind following the traumatic incidence in Derna.
Our initiative to support this imperative need in the displaced community and the related benefits of the programme are fully endorsed by the Libyan National Centre for Disease Control.
On 22 September a team of three qualified psychologists travelled to Derna to assess the mental health situation and provide the support required. A total of six sites where displaced individuals were sheltered were visited to provide individual and group sessions following case diagnosis using a variety of validated tools. Adults and children were targeted in the campaign and a different approach was undertaken according to the need of the individual.
The sessions were divided into five categories highlighting the sleep issues and mechanisms, including calming techniques, to alleviate sleep problems in the first session. In the second session, participants learned about mechanisms for coping with stress, acquiring effective tools to handle challenging situations. The third session focused on transforming negative thoughts into positive ones, fostering a healthier mindset among attendees. Session four delved into the topic of lifestyle changes, emphasizing the importance of adopting positive habits and routines for overall well-being. Additionally, relaxation exercises were introduced in the programme to reduce anxiety and psychological stress.
From 22 till 30 September, a total of 122 adults were reached. Psychological assessments were carried out to assess the mental health status of the individuals. Participants attended more than one session both individual and group sessions.
During the implementation period, a total of 95 children participated in the mental health campaign. Analysis of the children’s mental health was assessed by a variety of methods including storytelling and drawing therapy. Group, individual and child-adult sessions were carried out in variety of locations of the displaced family.
In the initial session, participants were introduced, trust was established, and narratives about past experiences were shared. The session culminated with the provision of psychological support, education on understanding emotions, and attentive listening to feelings of sadness, aimed at enabling individuals to confront and embrace these emotions as they move forward in their lives.
The mental health team conducted a three-hour training session for eight local psychologists in Derna. The training focused on providing guidance to healthcare and rescue workers in Derna, specifically addressing how to cope with the effects of Storm Daniel. This allowed for capacity building of the local psychologists for continuation of services.