Core MHPSS Guidance

How do we include stakeholders in MHPSS programming?

We begin with meaningful participation. All community stakeholders (including children and those with disabilities) should fully, ethically and meaningfully participate in all aspects of integrated programming. Therefore, each programming stage should feature accessible, gender-sensitive and child-friendly materials and processes.

See ‘How do we work with others to integrate MHPSS?’ below for more information on how to ensure meaningful stakeholder participation.

How do we keep children safe in MHPSS programming?

We take responsibility for keeping children safe in our programmes. Many MHPSS activities involve the sharing of sensitive information that can increase a child’s risk of abuse from the very humanitarian aid workers who are supposed to be helping them. All Save the Children staff, volunteers and partners are responsible for keeping children safe (or safeguarding) during all sector activities and at all times we are in contact with children.

See the Safeguarding guidance for key safeguarding considerations for MHPSS activities and programmes.

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How do we integrate MHPSS in all stages of the programme cycle?

How do we include MHPSS in assessments?

We apply an MHPSS lens. An MHPSS assessment should identify:

  • Key risk and protective factors of different groups of adults and children
  • The existing MHPSS in the community
  • Gaps in MHPSS that your programming can help address

See the MHPSS Assessment of Needs on how to work with other actors to collect MHPSS information.


How do we include MHPSS in programme design?

We integrate MHPSS into each step. MHPSS considerations should strengthen and complement sector programming. This involves developing an integrated Theory of Change that aligns MHPSS and sectoral outcomes. It is also encouraged to address the MHPSS needs of marginalised individuals and groups under the umbrella of more general, integrated sectoral interventions.

See Programme Planning and Design for specific steps to take in designing a programme that meets MHPSS objectives.

See Sector-specific MHPSS Recommendations for examples of MHPSS activities you can integrate into your sectoral programming.


How do we monitor and evaluate the success of MHPSS ?

We work together to measure the indicators we’ve agreed upon. Save the Children follows the IASC Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings[1] when monitoring and evaluating MHPSS programmes. Ideally, humanitarian partners should prioritise and agree upon common indicators to improve the coherence of MHPSS MEAL systems across organisations and sectors.

See Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, Learning and Research in the Technical Guidance for sample indicators and means of verification that can be adapted or reformulated to reflect the type of MHPSS work being conducted and the desired results.

[1] IASC Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings- With means of verification (Version 2.0).pdf (

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How do we meet the MHPSS needs of the context?

We ensure the programmes and interventions fit the context. Like other programming, MHPSS programmes and interventions are most successful when they are:

  • Culturally and contextually appropriate
  • Delivered using local languages, facilities and structures
  • Built upon local knowledge, experiences and healthy coping mechanisms

The contextualisation process should involve national staff, volunteers and community members (including children with and without disabilities).

See Annex 1. Guidance Note: Contextual and Cultural Adaptation of MHPSS Resources for specific guidance on the types of changes and adjustments you can make to contextualize MHPSS programming and resources.

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How do we advocate for integrated MHPSS programming?

We target key decision makers for greater impact. Save the Children encourages both internal and external advocacy to promote quality MHPSS programming across all interventions and sectors. Internal advocacy encourages partners and regional and country offices to upscale the capacity and quality of integrated MHPSS programming. External advocacy promotes national- and global-level budgetary, policy and legislative support for MHPSS.

See Advocate for integrated MHPSS programming 

See Save the Children’s Position Paper on MHPSS for background, key information, messages, and recommendations that can guide MHPSS advocacy activities.

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How can we learn more about integrated MHPSS programming?

Review key resources. See the following resources for additional guidance on incorporating MHPSS into the programme cycle:

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How do we work with others to integrate MHPSS?

How do we work with partners on MHPSS?

We prioritise partnerships from the beginning. Successful MHPSS integration depends upon the development and coordination of complementary partnerships between a variety of formal and informal services and providers. Save the Children has a responsibility to ensure that partner organizations have the capacity and competencies to carry out project activities in a way which maximises their expertise, supports new direction and responses in project activities, and fosters trust.

See Partnerships in the Technical Guidance for steps regional and country offices can take to facilitate and support partners’ MHPSS integration.

See Competencies and Capacity Strengthening in the Technical Guidance to identify the roles needed for MHPSS integration and the actions that can support those roles.


How do we communicate with other sectors about MHPSS?

We agree on how we’re going to communicate. Successful MHPSS integration relies on the commitment of both MHPSS and other sector actors. It is vital that MHPSS and other sector actors communicate regularly to build a common understanding of:

  • The benefits of integrated MHPSS
  • Entry points for integration
  • Language and terminology related to MHPSS and integration

See Steps to Integrate MHPSS into Different Sectors in the Technical Guidance for the key guidance all sectors should follow when integrating MHPSS into their programming.


How do we mobilise community actors’ participation in MHPSS?

We respect existing positive practices. Community mobilisation and ownership are critical for successful MHPSS integration. Communities and families have existing formal and informal systems in place that support children and caregivers. It is essential to map existing community-led approaches, capacities, resources and structures in order to strengthen positive practices that have traditionally been used.

See Community actors and community-level interventions in the Technical Guidance for steps to involve existing community structures and key stakeholders (such as men and children) in MHPSS programming.

How should we engage coordination mechanisms in MHPSS?

We join in on existing coordination efforts. Save the Children’s MHPSS Strategy emphasises engagement in interagency coordination and related coordination mechanisms, including at country and global levels. By actively participating in coordination mechanisms, you can work with others to:

  • Ensure that children are heard and included in efforts to communicate with families and communities[1]
  • Encourage local stakeholders to participate, lead, and engage in coordination platforms and mechanisms
  • Develop tools and policies that support coordination and localisation
  • Support national and international efforts to promote and implement MHPSS programming

See Coordination in the Technical Guidance to identify the coordination groups in your context and the ways these groups can strengthen MHPSS programming.

[1] Information Sharing & Communication with Children and Communities guidance – Save the Children


How can we strengthen MHPSS referral pathways?

We clarify how we’re going to work together. One of the strengths of integrated programming is that it can facilitate the identification, referral and case management of at-risk individuals and families. Develop or strengthen functional referral pathways by:

  • Mapping and coordinating with all available services across sectors and agencies
  • Developing tailored communication plans to educate the staff and participants of integrated MHPSS programming on available referral pathways

See ­­­Why Integrate MHPSS in Other Sector Interventions? in the Technical Guidance for examples of sectoral services that can be included in MHPSS referral pathways (and vice versa).


How can we learn more about MHPSS collaborations?

Review key resources. See the following resources for additional guidance on collaborating with others in support of MHPSS programming:

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What resources do we need for integrated MHPSS programming?

We plan and budget according to the context. All personnel and activities related to integrated MHPSS programme development, adaptation, implementation and evaluation must be adequately resourced.  This includes assuring funding is in place for the timescale of the programme and includes line items for assessments and ongoing monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEAL) initiatives. Where resources are limited, emphasis should be placed on community-based initiatives rather than those at the top layers of the MHPSS intervention pyramid.

See the The Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Minimum Services Package (MHPSS MSP) for a list of the MHPSS personnel and activities that need to be funded in integrated programmes.

How can we learn more about securing resources?

Review key resources. See the following resources for additional guidance on securing personnel and materials for MHPSS programming:


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How do we develop a team that can integrate MHPSS?

What key roles and responsibilities are needed for integrated MHPSS programming?

We need everyone to play their role. Integration requires a team approach where many partners combine their diverse skills and knowledge to strengthen MHPSS across all sectors’ programmes and services. Integrated programming requires staff who has:

  • Sector-specific technical knowledge and skills and technical supervision
  • Awareness of MHPSS approaches and on-going capacity building
  • Strategical support from programme quality directors and other senior management team members

Each team member (at individual and organisational levels) must be aware of their roles and responsibilities as well as the processes that will contribute to successful integration.

See Key Roles and Accountabilities for Integrating MHPSS Within Save the Children in the Technical Guidance for a list of required MHPSS roles and corresponding job descriptions.


How do we support staff well-being?

We consider what is needed to support staff and volunteers in our context. It is impossible for staff to effectively deliver sectoral, MHPSS or integrated interventions apart from a certain level of personal mental health and well-being. Therefore, systems to support staff care must be in place for all staff and volunteers.

See Save the Children’s Guidance Note on Staff Well-being for tips to support individuals and teams to manage stress and build resilience.


What are the essential skills for integrated MHPSS staff?

We identify which skills are essential for our context. All integrated staff in all sectors require ongoing capacity building and supervision. The Save the Children Competency Framework outlines the core competencies needed for all sector staff, including MHPSS. Specific capacity-building needs will be dictated by the context, the individual’s roles and responsibilities, and the changing MHPSS landscape. The chart below identifies some core topics and skills which are required for all staff.

See Section II of the Technical Guidance for resources that can support sector-specific competencies.


How can we learn more about hiring and supporting integrated MHPSS staff?

Review key resources. See the following resources for additional guidance on securing and supporting MHPSS personnel:

  • Staff well-beingSave the Children, Staff Well-being Guidance Note
  • Psychological First Aid (PFA) Save the Children Psychological First Aid Training Manual for Practitioners
  • Suicide Risk and self harm Management – The Suicide Risks and self harm  Management Protocols are designed to develop a suicide risks safe and secure approach; it is not a guidance to implement therapy or provide therapeutic support to a suicidal patient. The protocols consists of three sections:
    • Country Office Internal Implementation Checklist
    • General protocol
    • Detailed protocol

    To access the checklist, contact the MHPSS TWG chair.

  • Required competencies Save the Children Competency Framework

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Read about MHPSS sector-specific recommendations

Read about MHPSS recommendations for cross-sectoral themes