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smps rdc © Olivia Acland pour Action contre la Faim


mental health

Coloniality and intersectionality in mental health: a rallying call

In many parts of the world, the mental healthcare pathway is a veritable métissage (hybridisation) of therapeutic methods, in the sense that François Laplantine and Alexis Nous give to this French term : the product of a structure that assembles and interweaves various elements by transforming them, without dismantling them. Community mental health centres, psychiatric institutions, traditional healers, soothsayers or various therapies embedded in religious practices (Muslim cults, Catholic exorcisms, Pentecostal prayer camps, etc.), associations of people demanding the right to live without pharmacological treatment, liberal professionals practising so-called “brief and progressive” psychotherapies, etc.: there is a myriad of care-giving, cultural and social levers in the environment of people with mental health disorders.

In this context, international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) have to rethink how they can design their humanitarian response, in particular by improving the way they work with local actors, civil society organisations and local public institutions. In the field of mental health, as in others, these partners are expressing an increasing desire for autonomy in the management of the actions that concern them. Since the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, INGOs have referred to this need for a transformation of partnership posture as the “agenda for the localisation of humanitarian aid”.


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