Supporting Mental Health in Afghanistan


By strengthening mental health and psychosocial support services, HealthNet TPO wants to improve the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of people living in Afghanistan, particularly for women and children. There is no health without mental health.

Mental health in Afghanistan

Mental health disorders are alarmingly high in Afghanistan, exacerbated by suffering from conflict, poverty, and personal losses. Stigma associated to mental health disorders prevent many from seeking treatment, and those that do are unable to access the care they need due to a lack of services, causing many to slip through the gaps.

Mental health and psychosocial support services provided by the public health system are extremely low. Lack of knowledge, training and resources, particularly in local health centres prevent staff from detecting, treating and referring issues to specialist care.

HealthNet TPO has been improving access to and quality of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services for the people of Afghanistan since 2015, with support from the European Union (EU). Our MHPSS interventions follow two routes: (1) improving the availability of MHSS services within public health facilities by increasing the number of trained MHPSS staff; (2) improving access and quality of mental health services at community levels and at schools.

Health Social Counsellors

Health Social Counsellors (HSCs) provide psychological first aid, psychosocial counselling and referrals to specialist support for people living with mental health and psychosocial issues. Based within both health facilities and communities, they are often the first point of call for people experiencing mental health or psychosocial concerns. Through its two-year diploma HSC training programme, HealthNet TPO wants to see HSCs based in every public health facility. Previously trained psychosocial counsellors, from a preceding EU-funded training programme, will receive training to become HSCs to adequately respond to the emerging health needs of the population.

Integrating mental health into the health system

Training of medical staff including medical doctors, nurses and midwives on basic mental health helps staff to detect, treat and refer mental health and psychosocial issues within public health facilities. Due to the high turnover rate of staff and the changing circumstances in mental health stressors, HealthNet TPO provides training to clinical staff based on the WHO-approved mental health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) training curriculum.

Supporting child mental health

For the first time in Afghanistan, HealthNet TPO provides MHPSS services for school children using the WHO School Mental Health Programme. The daily stressors can have a significant impact on child and adolescent mental wellbeing and on their education. By training teachers and strengthening the relationship to between schools and Health Social Counsellors, HealthNet TPO supports child and adolescent wellbeing. Community health workers (CHWs) play an important role in supporting the health and wellbeing of their community members. By training CHWs on MHPSS, HealthNet TPO helps them better respond to mental health and psychosocial issues.

Azita's Story: Becoming a psychosocial counsellor changed my life and helped me improve the lives of others

Growing up in a small, remote village in Badakhsan province, Azita did not expect anything from her life. From a young age, she was taught not to dream big and to behave as the woman society expected her to be. As a result, Azita felt very isolated, she had extremely low self-esteem and imagined her life as meaningless. In 2019, Azita joined onto HealthNet TPO’s psychosocial training programme to become a trained psychosocial counsellor. Not only did the training allow her to improve her own wellbeing and view on her world, but she now had the resources to help others.

"The psychosocial counselling training enabled me to develop new skills and have financial opportunities. I no longer felt isolated and I saw my self-confidence grow. I now have an ability to take care of myself, my family and help others around me."


Azita works with many people within her community, particularly women, helping them to change their own lives through psychosocial counselling. Many start income generation activities for themselves, building stronger incomes and strengthening their family's resilience and self-confidence. Azita will now complete the training programme to become a health social counsellor, developing her skills further to support more people through challenging situations.

With support from