Rebuilding resilience during trauma: a focus on mental health


On World Mental Health Day (10 October), we want to shine a spotlight on the mental health and psychosocial support needed by older refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) such as Abbas.

Refugees and IDPs often require mental health and psychosocial support due to the traumatic experiences they have endured, including war, violence, displacement, and loss. In order to prevent such events resulting in severe psychological distress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to promote mental well-being it is essential that appropriate mental health and psychosocial support is available.

In all of our humanitarian responses around the world, HelpAge provides mental health and psychosocial support to most at risk older refugees and IDPs with the aim of strengthening or rebuilding their resilience, helping them cope with the emotional and psychological impact of the crises and regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. This support also seeks to facilitate their integration into their host communities and therefore enhance their overall well-being.

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Life in an IDP camp in Mogadishu

There are approximately 45,846 displaced people living in Heliwa and Kahda districts, Benadir, near Mogadishu. They live in traditional improvised shelters made out of plastic, cardboard, and old clothes. These shelters are overcrowded, with multiple families sharing one shelter.

The camps lack access to drinking water, less than 10% have latrines, and the majority lack hygiene and sanitation facilities. There are only two health centres in the camps.

Watch this video to see the impact of these circumstances on older peoples’ mental health.

I am Abbas Hussein Ibrahim, a 75-year-old father of six children. I used to live in Kurtunwarey village in the lower Shabelle region of Somalia with my family. We were agro-pastoralists and lived a good life, we were able to provide for our family through farming and raising livestock. However, the current drought forced us to flee our home and seek refuge in the Bolow internal displacement camp in Kahda district, Mogadishu.



My wife, Awliyo Hilowle Aadan, has been suffering from mental health problems caused by the stress and frustration of losing her crops. She sometimes talks to herself at night, it has been very hard for her.

We can no longer farm or raise livestock, and are now in need of support for food and healthcare. I myself have been suffering from damaged nerves for six years and cannot walk without crutches or walking sticks.

We have been living in this camp for about 8 months, and we received cash assistance from Horen International Relief and Development Organization (HIRDO), supported by Help Age International. With this support, we were able to buy food, meat, and other essentials, but we still struggle with our day-to-day needs.

I hope that if HIRDO continues to provide this kind of support, we will be able to generate some income to help support our family. I also hope that my wife’s mental health issues will be addressed so that she can recover from the stress and depression caused by the current drought. This situation has been very hard for all of us, but we are trying to stay strong and hope for a better future.


In Somalia, HelpAge is providing counselling services to over 1,300 older refugees and IDPs and their dependants through partner organisation HIRDO, with ongoing referral if necessary.