Welcome to In-Sight Collaborative's Humanitarian Wellness resource page. Here you will find a collection of tools that will help you better understand the concept of holistic wellness for humanitarian actors and people experiencing forced displacement. These resources have been compiled by seasoned humanitarians and specialists in the mental health sector. These resources reflect current research and best practice standards and are designed to help promote better mental and emotional wellbeing, but are not intended to replace professional help. We urge you to seek help from a medical professional if you feel you need it.
If you would like to contribute tools, collaborate on ideas, or make any other inquiries, please do so using the contact form below.
Why Humanitarian Wellness?
We are all likely familiar with the concept of self-care. Exercise, get enough sleep, take care of your body, participate in activities or practices that make you feel refreshed and nourished… these are great habits that we encourage people to prioritize while participating in a sector as intense as humanitarian crisis response. That being said, we want to emphasize that you can not self-care your way out of illness in an unhealthy system. Self-care places the responsibility of wellbeing on the individual, not the system. Self-care does not acknowledge the ways that structural violence can hinder us from staying healthy while participating in the sector. Self-care requires resources like time, energy, and usually financial or physical resources that some people do not have access to. When we place the burden of wellbeing on the individual, this is a victim-blaming mentality that not only prohibits wellness, but can actually make people worse. Rather than a “self-care lens”, we instead choose to frame humanitarian wellness from a holistic lens that starts with educating humanitarians about the ways that the sector can impact our mental and emotional wellbeing, and providing them with resources to consistently reflect and respond to our mental and emotional needs. The following sections dive into some of the ways our wellness can be impacted when we experience injury by participating in the sector and tools and resources to become more resilient to those potential injuries.
In-Sight Collaborative has long seen moral injury as a risk to the wellbeing of humanitarians and displaced people. Since 2018, we have worked to integrate the latest research on moral injury in first response professions into our organizational structure and programs, and in 2021 we partnered with a research team at William & Mary College to conduct a study on moral injury in humanitarian workers. Findings from this study are in the process of being published and applied to the tools and resources we create at our organization.
Moral injury refers to an emotional and spiritual injury which produces profound emotional guilt and shame, and in some cases also a sense of betrayal, anger and profound "moral disorientation.” Moral injury occurs when someone is exposed to a potentially morally injurious event. This means any event where you may be forced to act in a way that does not align with your moral code, or where you are unable to act in the way you understand to be moral.
You develop moral injury when, after the event, you have a lingering feeling of guilt, shame, or betrayal for the way you acted. Moral injury is very common in humanitarians. We are all in this sector because we want to help others, and failing to do so can leave us feeling very distressed. Moral injury is not a medical diagnosis, but there are still ways to address the symptoms you feel, and ways to be more resilient when you experience potentially morally injurious events.
Ways to prevent moral injury: Learn to identify potentially morally injurious (PMI) events. This can help you avoid these types of situations when possible, or can help you recognize when you may need to seek support following a PMI event. Identify someone you can trust to talk about moral injury with. Sharing your thoughts and feelings around a PMI event can help address some of the feelings of guilt and shame that linger when we are forced to violate our moral code. Participation in collective healing is very effective in combating moral injury because our feelings of guilt and shame are learned feelings from the way people around us respond to our behavior. If we are surrounded by love and acceptance, it is easier to cope with any guilt or shame after a PMI event. More resources on collective healing are included under "Collective Wellness"
More on Moral Injury
If you would like to learn more about moral injury in humanitarians, we encourage you to take our free online course!
This course is designed for humanitarian leaders, career humanitarians, volunteers, or people who want to support the humanitarian in their life.
The humanitarian sector is notoriously high-stress, and in this line of work you are exposed to lots of different ways that you can experience wounds to your body, mind, and spirit. Additionally, there are very few resources that are available for humanitarians due to barriers like cost, geographical access, or how well they can cater to the specific needs of a humanitarian. Injury can occur in many forms, and not all injuries are visible. We often think of injury only affecting our physical wellbeing, but it is important to remember that our soul and psyche can also become injured. All forms of injury can have devastating consequences if not dealt with in an appropriate way. One of the best things a humanitarian can do to prevent long-term problems from mental, emotional, or spritual injuries that occur in this line of work is to have a clear support system in place to help remind them to rest, process their emotions, or seek professional help should they need it. In-Sight Collaborative has designed a self-wellness plan for humanitarian actors that we encourage them to fill out in a calm, rested, and supported state of mind and keep with them should they need reminders or a resource to turn to during a crisis. You can download and complete the self-wellness form by clicking the botton below!
Humans are communal creatures. We need other people around us to feel a sense of safety and belonging. As we said before, you can not self-care your way out of illness that is caused by the environment (including the people) around you. It requires a combination of self-care and community care. We call this combination practice collective wellness. One of the ways we can promote overall wellness is by promoting healthier and more supportive systems and organizational cultures.
Humanitarian work is widely misunderstood and participating in the sector in any way can feel lonely and isolating. When we are injured by complex injustices, healing must take place in a way that remedies the injury to the mind, body, and spirit. Simply put, collective healing is the practice of healing collectively. Collective healing is important because it addresses the relational wounds that we may experience in our work - the ones that heavily impact our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. In the case of moral injury, the “symptoms” that we experience are guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are learned emotions that we develop based on the responses from the people around us. We may feel a deep emotional and spiritual distress after we witness injustice or experience complex trauma from our lived experiences or work. This is best healed by addressing the root causes of the injustice or trauma we witnessed or experienced.
Get in Touch
Please contact us if you have any questions, would like to contribute additional resources, or would like to collaborate with In-Sight's team about collaborating or using resources at your organization, we are always happy to discuss!