MSF teams determined that there were few counselling services available in areas of central and southern Iraq that had been hard hit by violence, and high needs for mental healthcare. But providing this care is complicated by the poor security situation, which forces MSF to manage its Iraq programs from Amman, in neighbouring Jordan.
In collaboration with the Iraqi Ministry of Health, MSF mental health officers trained 17 counsellors to work at three hospitals in central Iraq, beginning in September 2009. By August 2010, the counsellors had already conducted more than 2500 sessions. Sessions focus on everything from daily stressors, like inability to pay for school fees, to trauma connected to the violence.
MSF’s international teams are only able to visit the counselling programs in Iraq once a month, due to security restrictions. The rest of the time, the team relies on technology to connect the Iraqi counsellors with MSF mental health officers in Amman.