From left, Gevorg Gharibyan, Dr. Danna Mauch and Dr. Catherine Vuky at “The Role of Mental Health Awareness in Minority Communities” panel discussion in Boston, in June

YEREVAN — Accomplishing mental balance and inner peace is much more challenging when navigating historical trauma, which passes through generations, over and over in a vicious circle.

In order to care for and be able to help those who are enduring great loss, it’s vital to gain a deep understanding of the layers of particular challenges they face.

For Armenians across the world, whose ancestors survived the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the Azerbaijani attack on Karabakh (Artsakh) on September 19, 2023, heaped devastation upon unhealed wounds.

Established in 2021, the Mental Health Awareness Initiative (MHAI) NGO is dedicated to promoting mental health awareness, well-being, and accessibility to mental health care in Armenia. In the aftermath of the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, their mission became even more critical as the need for support and understanding reached unprecedented levels.

Sofya, Jemma and Gevorg at Alzheimer’s Care Armenia’s “From Early Detection to End of Life: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease” conference

It is important to understand that people who have experienced trauma and extreme loss, and those who continue to face uncertainty, need a capable helping hand and support to be able to heal, live joyfully in healthy relationships, and have the chance to thrive.

Because of this simple truth, when faced with the reality of our compatriots being forcibly displaced from their homes, we have made an executive decision to act and to support/initiate programs for those impacted, in anticipation of a greater humanitarian crisis.

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One such project is “Psychological Support for Forcibly Displaced Persons” which runs continuously and aims to close gaps in mental health care and address ever-pressing needs within the Armenian community. With a group of volunteer specialists that have undergone the necessary professional training to provide Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in accordance with the United Nations, World Health Organization and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) frameworks, forcibly displaced persons are provided with psychological services, including psychological counseling.

The support services are strictly provided within the framework of MHPSS through the incorporation of evidence-based methodologies such as Problem Management Plus (PM+), both individually and in group settings, and delivered free of charge in person or online.

Generally speaking, in the past 10 years, approximately 9 percent of those individuals involved in war or other conflicts have experienced moderate or severe mental health challenges.

While there is a lack of research specifically addressing the situation in Armenia, evidence from research conducted within populations having similar experiences shows that 22 percent of those living in a conflict zone are dealing with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

It is crucial to recognize that the experience of conflict, disaster, violence, loss and feelings of isolation can lead to increased risk for suicide and are associated with suicidal behavior. In other words, there’s a dire need for support, understanding, and compassion in Armenian society.

Laura Bilazarian Purutyan, MHAI’s independent advisor at “The Role of Mental Health Awareness in Minority Communities” panel discussion in Boston in June

The “Psychological Support for Forcibly Displaced Persons” project was able to succeed on the basis of our first MHPSS project addressing the needs of caregivers, launched just a few months earlier in August 2023. Simply put, psychosocial support is important because it restores people’s ability to take care of themselves and others. MHPSS should therefore be part of the basic assistance provided in crisis situations, and this is why our organization prioritizes the integration and advancement of MHPSS guidelines, policies, and procedures while facing the ever-present stigma of accessing mental health services in Armenian society.

People often do not seek services due to a lack of information as well as cultural stigma, and they do not have personal contact with people who benefit from psychosocial support with a qualified and trained professional. Over the past 6 months, we identified a number of challenges that prevent our beneficiaries from accessing our services, for example, many people who left Artsakh due to a mass exodus settled in the regions of Armenia, and despite the fact that we provide services online, some do not have access to private spaces, the internet, or smartphones.

With this understanding, the organization seeks to expand our reach outside of Yerevan, to make the services equally accessible in all the communities affected by devastating displacement. We are working to accumulate resources in order to expand the number of specialists needed to launch an emotional support hotline on a 24/7 operation basis, for those who cannot afford private care in the form of counseling or therapy. By doing this, we will be able to address the widespread emotional distress and despair.

MHAI therapy room

What Can We Do?

An important step is to understand and provide high-quality care to people suffering from the continuation of historical trauma and its effects on individuals and collective society. The lasting, negative consequences of failing to address mental health concerns is to face increasing rates of suicide; violence; alcohol and drug abuse; low employment; higher domestic abuse; and higher crime. MHAI’s efforts provide effective mental health information and tools in a caring environment to mitigate these negative effects and strengthen families and society.

Supporting initiatives like ours ensures long-term care and recovery for trauma bounded society.

Additionally, from April 8 to 12, the Global Giving fundraising portal is offering an opportunity to match the impact of donations. All money contributed during this period will be matched, amplifying the reach of the group’s efforts. This means that contributions will have twice the impact in providing vital mental health support to those who need it most.

To break it down further, $25 will cover 5 one-to-one sessions, including therapy room and transportation fees. With $50, the group can host a group session for 10 to 15 beneficiaries, including venue fees. A donation of $75 will help run educational campaigns on social media and get 25 new beneficiaries registered.

To learn more, visit

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