World Mental Health Day - Doctors of the World

World Mental Health Day

By Shyamantha Asokan

In many parts of the world, a silent mental health crisis is unfolding.

Almost half of the world's population live in a country with less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people.

One in three refugees in camps on the Greek island of Chios has witnessed a suicide. Sierra Leone has just two psychiatrists to help its population cope with the shock and grief that followed the Ebola epidemic. Doctors of the World works in dangerous and difficult places around the globe, and our medical teams often include desperately needed psychologists and psychiatrists. On World Mental Health Day, we want to thank them and share some of the work they do to heal invisible wounds.


Doctors of the World physicians treat a refugee in Lesbos

There are over 60,000 refugees currently in limbo in Greece, living in unsafe and unhealthy camps while they are assessed for a possible return to Turkey or permission to join relatives in Europe. In practice, the 2016 EU-Turkey deal has simply created a backlog of claims and appeals, leaving people confined to Greece’s islands unsure of when they will be allowed to leave.

These men, women and children are increasingly suffering from mental health problems such as self-harm, suicide attempts, depression, aggression and anxiety. Our psychologists work in these camps to hold one-on-one and group sessions with people in need.



The towns in eastern Ukraine are on the frontline of a three-year conflict, the sound of shelling rattles through the air at night. While many young people have fled the area, parents and pensioners are often unable to do so. In these ghost towns, isolated people suffer from anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia.

Doctors of the World UK started working in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine in 2015. Our psychologists go to villages in mobile clinics and help people like Ludmila (pictured right), who had a nervous breakdown due to the conflict. “Once I opened up to the psychologist, I felt like a hand of salvation had reached out to me,” she says. You can watch a video about our mental health work in Ukraine here.


Nepal © Quentin Top

In 2015, Nepal’s strongest earthquake in a century killed over 8,500 people. Two years on in Sindhupalchok, the worst-hit district, local women are still helping people recover from the earthquake’s psychological impacts. Women in these villages say mental health issues and drinking are on the rise, partly because many people are still unable to rebuild their houses and start anew.

We have a mental health team doing outreach work in these villages. We also run workshops for local women we’re helping to run micro-loan projects, build health clinics, and offer counseling. To read more about our work in Nepal, click here.



In Lebanon, roughly one in five people is a Syrian refugee. Many of these refugees endured traumatic experiences during the civil war and now live in refugee camps. But Lebanon’s mental health services are largely privatized, concentrated in the capital Beirut, and suffer from shortages of professionals. As a result, refugees suffering from conditions such as PTSD often have no one to turn to.

Our psychologists in the Bekaa Valley are treating refugees, including many children. We’re also working with Lebanon’s government to establish the first mental health unit in a public hospital in Beirut. You can learn more about our work in the Bekaa Valley here.