Ipso has been active in Afghanistan since 2008. Our aim has been to provide services which understand mental health issues in the social context of decades of insecurity and violence, ranging from armed conflict in the public sphere to domestic violence.
More than twenty years ago, during the first Taliban rule and in the early years of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, mental health played a minor role in the Afghan public health system, despite a country ravaged by war and millions of people internally displaced. Between 2008 and 2016, Value Based Counseling was integrated into the Afghan public health system with support from Ipso. We trained more than 500 men and women as psychosocial counselors, of whom 380 were employed at comprehensive health centers countrywide, and developed a train-the-trainers system for sustainability. Doctors and nurses were trained to team up with counselors for referrals of patients whose symptoms were related to social stress.
Keeping the original counseling quality standards turned out to be the biggest challenge after Ipso handed training over to the Ministry of Public Health. In response to this situation, we opened a Mental Health and Psychosocial Center in Kabul as a center of excellence in 2016. It provides services to Afghans who suffer from a high mental health burden and high level of stress in their daily lives, and includes immediate trauma care after exposure to potentially traumatizing events.
The center offers individual face-to-face and online psychosocial counseling regardless of gender, ethnicity and economic situation, runs a day care center and provides outpatient psychiatric assessment and treatment. Psychosocial counselors are accessible for individual online counseling to clients across the country, many of whom access the service at care points we run in 18 provinces.
We continued our services throughout last year, when the Taliban returned to power and many organisations withdrew from Afghanistan. Today, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS) provided by the public health system have largely broken down.
Currently, we are the largest provider of psychosocial counseling services in the country. To secure funding for ongoing services is our biggest challenge.