American University of Beirut

Helping helpers: MPH student Sukna Abbass provides mental health support training for public health practitioners during COVID19

​​In times of health emergencies, public health professionals are on extreme alert, putting all their knowledge and efforts, working extra-hours, and doing all they can to exercise their role in protecting the community through ensuring that every individual receives the aid and healthcare they need.

As these public health champions are saving lives, and due to the amount of stress they encounter in these conditions, they find themselves facing a battle of another type: maintaining their own psychological wellbeing and mental health.

Sukna Abbass, a Master of Public Health student at FHS, decided to take her learnings to the field, supporting healthcare workers through the ICRC – Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) program guidelines.

"After the training with ICRC last year in" helping helpers" program to support mental health of health workers working in public health centers, the ICRC did for us another online training session to support the health workers mental health during covid_19 outbreak", said Sukna. “Following this session, I started a series of online and live workshops, as well as one to one session benefiting more than 25 health workers (nurses, doctors, housekeepers, technicians, etc.) in public health centers in ten towns in three different districts, with more training sessions scheduled for the upcoming weeks.

The goal of the training is to:

  • Support health workers who are directly exposed to the covid-19 outbreak.
  • Empower them to do their duty and enhance their vital role.
  • Increase the awareness of their health and mental health needs, and
  • Intervene through peer support sessions.

“I performed peer support by training fellow workers in public health through supportive communication principles criterion. We exchange stories about hope and recovery, and information about coping strategies with new covid-19 situations". Sessions also included discussions on how to build social network in communities, and respecting privacy and human rights.

The ICRC HELP Program is a two-week course on the provision of hu​manitarian assistance during disasters, armed conflicts and other complex crises. It was created in 1986 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Geneva, to professionalize the delivery of humanitarian assistance during emergencies, and to promote professional ethics and humanitarian principles.

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