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Mental Health Simulation Exercise attracts crisis specialists from 35 countries to Estonia

19.09.2023 | 16:18

From Tuesday to Friday, 19th to 22nd September, an international simulation exercise titled “Building Better Before” is set to bring crisis sector specialists from 35 countries worldwide to Estonia. The training focuses on providing mental health and psychosocial support in crisis situations. A significant objective of this event is to enhance Estonia's readiness for potential crises and learn from best practices successfully adopted in more experienced countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Social Affairs are the organizers.
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This marks a significant step towards implementing the MHPSS (mental health and psychosocial support) framework in Estonia. The MHPSS framework seeks to more systematically and human-centrically support individuals' mental health and emotional well-being during crises, such as natural disasters, conflicts, or pandemics. This system encompasses emotional and community support, psychological counseling, and other resources to help individuals cope with traumatic events, alleviate stress, find strength and hope during challenging times, and receive timely and relevant aid depending on their mental health needs and condition. Leading experts with extensive experience implementing MHPSS in crisis zones, including in the context of the war in Ukraine, will conduct the training.

Dr. Fahmy Hanna of the World Health Organization states that the interdisciplinary simulation exercises and seminar program "Building Better Before" is a unique global initiative. "The program strengthens governments' and organizations' crisis preparedness and helps mitigate risks related to mental health and psychosocial well-being during crises. With its consistent, comprehensive steps and national action plan, Estonia is clearly a global leader in MHPSS readiness. Alongside Scandinavia, it's among the first countries where the MHPSS framework is being nationally adopted. We're delighted that such an internationally significant event can occur here," says Dr. Hanna.

"Maintaining and enhancing crisis readiness is a national priority for Estonia, an integral part of which is the effective provision of mental health and psychosocial support," says Minister of Social Protection, Signe Riisalo. "International cooperation and the opportunity to host such a key training event in Estonia will strengthen our cross-sectoral crisis network and global collaboration, giving us an excellent opportunity to learn from the best in the field. This ensures our preparedness and capacity to appropriately respond in future large-scale crises, providing mental health support even more quickly and systematically."

Anniki Lai, Head of the Mental Health Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs, believes psychosocial well-being concerns us all. "During large-scale crises, like the uncertainties in society arising from COVID-19 or active war zones nearby, providing necessary mental health support isn't solely about healthcare services or psychological therapy. We simply lack the capacity to reach enough people in need. Each sector and profession working with people has its role in such situations to protect and promote community well-being and support those already having or developing disorders during crises. Decisions should prioritize people's well-being and actual needs. This way, we can more effectively help people cope with crises," Lai comments.

The four-day simulation exercise is divided into two parts: the theoretical segment offers participants access to top international knowledge. Following this, participants will test their skills and knowledge in practical exercises held at various establishments in Tallinn. Various potential crisis situations will be simulated, and participants will learn how different stakeholders (public sector and aid organizations) can effectively collaborate in times of crisis. The exact nature of the scenarios remains a surprise for the participants until the very last moment.

Specialists in the field of crisis from the following countries will participate in the exercise: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Croatia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, France, Spain, Australia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Greece, Moldova, Serbia, Egypt, Mexico, Thailand, Israel, Yemen, Kenya, Lebanon, Iraq, Ethiopia, Somalia, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Syria, and Jordan.

From Estonia, the participants include the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Social Insurance Board, Tallinn Social and Health Department, Health Board, Estonian Refugee Council, the Red Cross, SOS Children's Village, Ministry of Education and Research, Police and Border Guard Board, and the chaplaincy network coordinator.

The exercise "Building Better Before" will take place from the 19th to the 22nd of September in Tallinn.