: 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 193--194

Assessment of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Limitations, Needs, and Recommendations in Iraq

Darya Rostam Ahmed 
 Department of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Science and Health, Koya, Iraq

Correspondence Address:
Darya Rostam Ahmed
Department of Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Science and Health, Koya University, Koya KOY45, Kurdistan Region, F.R. Iraq.

How to cite this article:
Ahmed DR. Assessment of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Limitations, Needs, and Recommendations in Iraq.Intervention 2022;20:193-194

How to cite this URL:
Ahmed DR. Assessment of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Limitations, Needs, and Recommendations in Iraq. Intervention [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 8 ];20:193-194
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Full Text

Dear Editor

For more than four decades, Iraq has endured extraordinary difficulties, including political repression, community violence, and prolonged conflict. People’s physical and mental health have suffered significantly as a result of these traumatic events (Ahmed, 2022a). Considering this, a recent systematic review indicated a significant prevalence of mental health problems in Iraq, including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety disorders (Ahmed, 2022b). Nevertheless, the World Health Organization resealed a report which shed light on rising suicide rates in Iraq, which worried public health officials (WHO, 2020). According to Iraqi health authorities, Iraq has a healthcare gap, notably in mental health. This is primarily due to stigma and misconceptions regarding psychiatric illnesses, as well as allocating insufficient budget for mental health services, which resulted in inadequate mental health facilities, psychosocial community centres, and a lack of qualified mental health professionals (mental health and psychosocial support services [MHPSS] cluster meeting 2021, miscellaneous).

The review was conducted in Iraq between December 2021 and July 2022, with the aim to assess MHPSS needs, address gaps, and recommend key solutions. The study adopted a rapid appraisal procedure (RAP) approach, which included a review and analysis of relevant information from different sources, interviews with key informants including local stakeholders and non-governmental organisation (NGO) workers, field visits, and observations. The assessment indicated the following gaps and challenges and suggested certain key solutions.

Gaps and challenges:A lack of professional MHPSS staffInadequate capacity-building programmesLimited MHPSS facilities and services offered by both government services and NGOsInsufficient support (budget, recruitment, and encouragement) for mental health assistance, mainly from the governmental sideLack or insufficient specialised services offered by NGOs corresponding to needsA lack of qualified MHPSS experts for developing tools and delivering training of trainers to improve mental health workers’ capacityA considerable number of vulnerabilities and people of concern but inadequate MHPSS actors

Considering the limitations and challenges identified, the assessment report proposes the following crucial recommendations to strengthen MHPSS services in Iraq.

Key solutions:Establish enough psychosocial centres in each location based on needs and expand MHPSS services according to priorities and impacted areas. These centres could provide a variety of services, including group and individual psychosocial counselling, recreational activities, structured group psychosocial activities for adults and children, counselling services for survivors of trauma and gender-based violence, and an awareness session on mental health and gender-based violence.Increase the number of mobile teams to assist those people in need who cannot afford to access centres and other healthcare facilities.Shift the programme’s focus from emergency to development and placing a stronger emphasis on structured mental health and psychosocial activities, particularly wellbeing programmes to increase community resilience and suicide prevention.Onboard more MHPSS specialists and experts to provide technical leadership in MHPSS and to offer specialised training to increase the capacity of mental health workers.Focus the work of NGOs on the second, third, and fourth layers of the MHPSS intervention pyramid (IASC, 2007), prioritising psychotherapy and structured psychosocial support group sessions, and pharmacological and non-pharmacological management.

To conclude, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the humanitarian situation of millions of Iraqis who are currently or have previously been internally displaced has not changed significantly (OCHA, 2021). Because of these issues, MHPSS is critical for the Iraqi people. Policymakers and authorities should adequately address these gaps and improve the services in accordance with the suggested key solutions.


1Ahmed D. (2022a). Observation of rare psychosocial and mental health symptoms in ISIS psychiatric patients: A pilot study among ISIS affiliates. Global Psychiatry Archives, 5(1): 65-69.
2Ahmed D. (2022b). The study of mental illness in Iraq and its common trends: A systematic review. Global Psychiatry Archives, 5(1): 26-35.
3Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). (2007) IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. IASC.
4OCHA. (2021). Humanitarian Needs Overview - Cameroon. Humanitarian Programme Cycle 2021, Feburary 2021, 1–53.
5World Health Organization. (2020). WHO EMRO eHealth. December, 2020–2022.