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IERH Scientific Publications: Mental Health in Aid Workers: Fact Sheet

What is the Public Health Problem?

Exposure to violent conflict is an important contributing factor in the origin of mental illness. Humanitarian aid workers

  • are increasingly providing care in situations where they are at high risk for violence; and
  • may be exposed to traumatic events that put them at risk for psychiatric morbidity.

Organizational stressors or support and resiliency factors may also affect the mental health of humanitarian aid workers.

Managing stress in staff of humanitarian aid organizations is an essential ingredient in enabling the organization to fulfill its field objectives, as well as necessary to protect the well being of the individual staff members themselves.

What has the CDC Accomplished?

Mental health in humanitarian aid workers in war and conflict areas is one of the focal activities of CDC’s International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch.

In collaboration with the Antares Foundation1, CDC has organized international conferences on the stress management and mental health of humanitarian aid workers in The Netherlands.

CDC has also assisted in the development of recommendations for minimal standards of care for humanitarian aid workers.

Currently, CDC is taking the lead on a multi-center international study to investigate the mental health of humanitarian aid workers.

  • The findings should lead to standards and recommendations to decrease mental illness among humanitarian aid workers and to increase the effectiveness of their work in complex emergencies.

What are the Next Steps?

CDC will report and share recommendations from the Mental Health of Humanitarian Aid Workers study.

CDC will explore further research which is necessary to determine risk and mitigating factors for the mental health status of aid workers.

CDC and other partners will conduct a mental health study among national staff working in emergency situations.


1Antares Foundation. Managing Stress in Humanitarian Workers, Guidelines for Good Practice. April 2005, p.2.

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  • Page last reviewed: June 24, 2011
  • Content source: Global Health
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