Strengthening Community Mental Health & Psychosocial Support During Emergencies

Authors Caillie Pritchard, Maia Tarvydas, Kiran Gurm, Jennifer Medlock
Keywords Case Study, Wildfire, Flooding, Disaster Response, Strategic Planning, Environmental Scan


The Canadian Red Cross has identified psychosocial supports as a longstanding priority in disaster-related emergency response and recovery. PolicyWise for Children & Families conducted an evaluation of Red Cross’ targeted mental health and psychosocial supports in Wood Buffalo following the 2016 wildfires and 2019 flooding. The evaluation identified opportunities for future strategic planning, investment, and policy priorities.

Readers of this Report will learn about action-oriented principles of community-based mental health and psychosocial support in emergency response, including:

  • Protecting human rights, dignity, and culture
  • Facilitating safety, healing, and calm
  • Building community capacity
  • Fostering clear communication

Readers will also learn about related domains of action through examples from the Wood Buffalo case study.

Practice & Policy Implications

  • Taking a holistic multi-sectoral approach can result in a faster more coordinated response while enhancing post-disaster recovery through improved integration and distribution of services.
  • Ensuring all personnel providing response and recovery services have access to mental health and psychosocial supports can increase confidence and capacity to provide contextually appropriate support.
  • Collecting and sharing knowledge of community resources, issues, and gaps throughout response and recovery can result in adaptive and responsive mental health and psychosocial supports that align with community needs.

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