Humanitarian mhGAP

The world today is facing an unprecedented number of challenges in terms of humanitarian crises, including more natural disasters as a result of climate change, displacement of human groups due to armed crises in various nations, epidemics and pandemics, among others. In these contexts, adults and children suffer from a wide variety of mental, neurological and substance use-related problems (MNS). Most of them experience grief and acute psychological distress, which are considered normal and transient psychological responses to very adverse situations. However, in a fraction of the population, these situations trigger mental health problems that can significantly hinder the performance of daily activities. In addition, people with pre-existing severe disorders become even more vulnerable due to displacement, homelessness, and limited access to and availability of health services. Finally, alcohol and drug use pose serious health and gender-based violence risks.

On the one hand, mental health needs among the population are increasing, on the other, local resources to meet them are often lacking. More than ever, health personnel trained in these issues are required to provide adequate care to this population.

Introduction to the course
This course provides health professionals, primarily those working at the first level of care, with tools and recommendations around first-line care and treatment of mental, neurological and substance use disorders (MNS) in humanitarian crisis situations, where there is often little access to specialists and limited treatment options.

It also provides essential information taken from the full version of the mhGAP Intervention Guide and includes additional elements that specifically apply to humanitarian crisis situations.

The course covers the following areas:

  • Practices and General Principles of Care (GPC).
  • Acute stress (ACU).
  • Grief (GRI).
  • Harmful use of substances (SUB).
  • Depression (DEP).
  • Suicide (SUI).
  • Psychosis (PSY).
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Epilepsy and epileptic seizures (EPI).
  • Intellectual disability (ID).
  • Other significant mental health complaints (OTH).

Regarding the specific modules on mental, neurological and substance use disorders, which are considered a priority in humanitarian contexts, each module addresses both detection and treatment of these conditions.

All modules begin with a presentation of the pedagogical objectives of the module. It includes reflection questions and activities distributed throughout the modules and concludes with a summary of the module in the form of key messages.

Train health personnel at different levels of care, mainly at the first level, with tools to efficiently diagnose and treat mental, neurological and substance use disorders in humanitarian crisis contexts, where local resources often do not have the capacity to provide care in a timely manner.

At the end of the course, participants will be able to:

  • Know effective communication techniques in interactions with people with MNS disorders,
  • Identify and implement key actions for the protection of the human rights of people with MNS disorders in humanitarian crises,
  • Promote dignity and respect for people with MNS disorders,
  • Provide guidance on stress reduction and the importance of strengthening social support for an overall approach to MNS disorders in humanitarian settings,
  • Set assessment principles to identify priority MNS disorders,
  • Know the recommended psychosocial interventions for people with priority MNS disorders and their caregivers; and
  • Know the management principles for people with priority MNS conditions.

Course duration
Twelve hours

Course modality
Self-study course, free of charge, open to the public and with no deadlines for completion.

Evaluation and Certification
Throughout the different modules, various activities are presented as part of the self-learning content, which will provide feedback to the participants; however, these activities are not evaluated.

At the end of the virtual course (eleven modules), participants will be required to pass a “Final Exam” consisting of thirty multiple-choice or true/false questions focused on assessing their ability to apply the intervention principles in humanitarian contexts.

The Final Exam is designed to provide participants with multiple opportunities to answer correctly until they achieve the required score of at least 70%.

Participants who meet these requirements and complete the quality survey on the Virtual Campus for Public Health (VCPH) will be able to download their certificate of course completion issued by the Pan American Health Organization.

mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide (mhGAP-HIG):

Explanatory note
This course is based on the World Health Organization (WHO) publication entitled: mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide (mhGAP-HIG): clinical management of mental, neurological and substance use conditions in humanitarian emergencies. This guide is part of the Mental Health Gap Action Program: scaling up care for mental, neurological and substance use disorders - mhGAP, aimed at general healthcare providers working in non-specialized settings.

The mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide (mhGAP-HIG) is specifically adapted to emergency environments.


Last update: 03/Apr/2024