Alert Spring 2023: Healing mind and body

How MSF provides mental health care to people caught in crisis.

Title 42

Mexico 2022 © Yesika Ocampo/MSF

Alert is a quarterly magazine published by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-USA) that features ground reporting from our work around the world. Below is an excerpt from MSF-USA Board President Dr. Africa Stewart's introduction to the Spring 2023 issue (Vol. 24, no. 1), Healing Mind and Body.

A Letter from Dr. Africa Stewart

Dear Friends, 

It's been two months since massive twin earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria, killing more than 50,000 people and leaving millions more homeless. The quakes and their aftershocks leveled buildings, decimated infrastructure, and worsened an already dire humanitarian emergency in northwestern Syria. 

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams already providing medical care in Syria immediately activated an emergency response. We helped care for scores of injured people and distributed much-needed relief items to those displaced from their homes. In the weeks that followed, we adapted our response to meet the evolving challenges. We treated thousands of earthquake-related injuries, supported damaged health facilities, and ramped up our services for forcibly displaced people.

Across the region, the devastating effects of the quakes are plain to see. But what about the invisible wounds inflicted by the disaster?

The earthquakes caused much more than just physical trauma. Our patients tell us about the fear, grief, anxiety, and depression they are grappling with. MSF staff were not spared the effects of the tragedy—two of our colleagues lost their lives in the earthquakes, and others lost family members and loved ones.

We know that physical and mental health are inextricably linked. That’s why our teams in Syria—and in more than 70 other countries around the world—offer psychosocial support alongside the medical services we provide. Psychologists, social workers, and other qualified staff provided more than 383,000 individual mental health consultations in 2021. Together with surgeons, nurses, logistics experts, and others, our mental health teams play a vital role in delivering medical humanitarian aid.

In the wake of disaster they offer essential psychological first aid, psychosocial support, and other services. And, crucially, they provide mental health care to our own staff, who are also deeply affected by the emergencies we respond to.

In this issue of Alert you’ll meet some of them, from the teams caring for people wounded and displaced by the war in Ukraine to a psychiatrist supporting some 10,000 locally hired MSF staff working in projects across the Middle East and North Africa.

In each issue of Alert, we aim to give you an in-depth look at the lifesaving work your support fuels for the communities who need it most. Some of that work is relatively easy to illustrate—thousands of vaccines administered, or tons of relief items delivered. It can be more difficult to quantify the value and necessity of a mental health care worker who speaks the right language, understands the context, and can help give patients the tools they need to begin the process of healing their minds as well as their bodies.

This is the essence of MSF’s work: We’ll never stop finding ways to meet people where they are, when they need it most. Thank you, as always, for your continued support.

Sincerely yours, 

Dr. Africa Stewart

President, MSF-USA Board of Directors

Mariupol, Ukraine AP 13 March

War in Ukraine

The psychological toll of violence.

Read More
Earthquake Northwestern Syria, 7 February 2023

Earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria

Picking up the pieces.

Read More

"What they need from us, as human beings, is empathy."

An MSF psychologist shares his story about working with migrants at Mexico’s southern border.

Read More
Emergency medical response in conflict-affected areas between Amhara and Tigray in northern Ethiopia

Aid for aid workers

How MSF provides psychosocial support to staff.

Read More

How you can help

Not everyone can treat patients in the field. But everyone can do something.

Some humanitarian crises make the headlines—others don’t. Unrestricted support from our donors allows us to mobilize quickly and efficiently to provide lifesaving medical care to the people who need it most, whether those needs are in the spotlight or not. And your donation is 100 percent tax-deductible.

We need your support to continue this lifesaving work

We need your support to continue this lifesaving work

Hear from our medical staff and experts

Hear from our medical staff and experts

Raise funds with friends

Raise funds with friends