Devex's top advice from 2019 for supporting humanitarian well-being

Devex rounds up the top stories from 2019 which highlight the importance of organizations supporting the mental health and well-being of their humanitarian staff. Photo by: jcomp /

Life as a humanitarian can mean long stints away from family and serving in some of the most high-risk contexts, where resources are limited and movement is restricted. Working long hours in a fast-paced, stressful environment amid an often volatile security situation can leave aid workers feeling burned out. Even when they return home, many struggle to return to their daily routine and can suffer from post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues.

Here are some of our top stories from 2019 highlighting the importance of organizations supporting the mental health and well-being of their humanitarian staff.

How to support employee mental health in the aid sector

Dr. Kavita Avula, lead consulting psychologist with The KonTerra Group, joined Devex for a conference call to discuss how organizations can better support the mental health and well-being of their staff. Avula stresses the importance of creating a healthy management culture and talking regularly about mental health issues. She also shares tips for how best to support a colleague who shows signs of burnout or stress.

Humanitarian staff need better post-assignment care

Post-assignment duty of care is often overlooked and there can be an assumption that staff return from assignments and continue with their lives as normal. Experts tell Devex how even resource-strapped organizations can provide better support by taking a proactive approach, tapping into alumni networks, and giving staff the chance to talk through their experiences.

How coaching can help build more resilient and resourceful humanitarian staff

Find out how one U.N. agency is providing coaching to staff in the most destitute and remote locations. Moving away from a “remedial, crisis-intervention mode” and taking a more proactive approach, the agency hopes that promoting staff development and well-being will better equip them to cope when crisis hits.

LGBT staff safety on humanitarian deployments is everyone's responsibility

The LGBT community is highly vulnerable in some areas of the world and can encounter hostility, harassment, and violence during deployments. Experts explain what individuals and their employers can do to support the safety and security of LGBT staff during humanitarian deployments.

What's it like to be a woman humanitarian in the field

From working in remote and unstable contexts to dealing with menstruation and the threat of sexual violence, women humanitarians face a multitude of safety and security risks. Two experienced aid workers share their tips for coping with life in the field, including how to avoid boredom and burnout.

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.