Conference call: How to support employee mental health in the aid sector

This is an excerpt from the event. Devex Career Account and Pro members can listen to the full conference call recording below. Via YouTube.

Around 30% of the general population suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety — and people working in the aid sector will always experience some of this, said Dr. Kavita Avula, lead consulting psychologist with The KonTerra Group, which supports leadership development, in addition to staff care and resilience, for organizations working in high-stress environments.

Aid workers are often operating in high-risk contexts, where resources are limited and movement is restricted. They are exposed to human suffering and trauma, work long hours, and may be separated from family, so it can be challenging to find ways to decompress and attend to their own well-being, Avula explained.

Increasingly, employers are understanding the importance of taking care of staff from the moment they are hired and adopting a more holistic approach to mental health, she continued. However, a lot of stigma still exists around this topic.

Avula stressed the importance of talking about mental health every day in the workplace. Don’t wait for a crisis — talk about it now and have a response plan in place, she suggested.

Highlights from this 30-minute conference call include:

  • The importance of setting up a healthy and functional environment for staff to operate in.

  • How to create a healthy management culture and one where managers are well-versed on mental health issues.

  • Advice for organizations, including those with fewer resources, on how to better support staff.

  • Signs that a colleague or team member is suffering from stress and advice on how to best support them.

  • Why leaders should assess how organizational culture is impacting staff well-being.

  • Ideas, such as expressive writing and breathing exercises, to help aid workers be more conscious of their own well-being.

Speakers: Dr. Kavita Avula, lead consulting psychologist, The KonTerra Group

Moderator: Emma Smith, careers reporter, Devex

Devex Career Account and Pro members can listen to the full conference here. Via YouTube.
This article was last updated on 20 March 2020

About the author

  • Emma Smith

    Emma Smith is a Reporter at Devex. She covers all things related to careers and hiring in the global development community as well as mental health within the sector — from tips on supporting humanitarian staff to designing mental health programs for refugees. Emma has reported from key development hubs in Europe and co-produced Devex’s DevProWomen2030 podcast series. She holds a degree in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University and a master's in media and international conflict. In addition to writing for regional news publications, she has worked with organizations focused on child and women’s rights.