Psychosocial Support and Social and Emotional Learning (PSS and SEL)

Topic(s)
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS)
Social and Emotional Learning

In emergency situations, education is a major factor in the mental and physical protection of children and can be a key psychosocial intervention. If properly delivered, education can offer learners a safe, stable environment in the midst of crisis, and help restore a sense of normality, dignity, and hope by providing both routine and structured, supportive activities that help build children’s cognitive, social, and emotional skills.

IRC in Syria
© P. Biro, IRC

Humanitarian crises profoundly impact children and youth since they cause long term disruption of every aspect of daily living, including housing, health, sanitation, recreation, and education. Crises can disrupt family relationships, disturb social cohesion, and can create feelings of isolation, uncertainty, fear, anger, loss, and sadness. Long term exposure to a disaster or conflict without appropriate mitigation can be damaging to both physical and mental health. The impact emergencies have on the functioning of families and communities in turn impacts the development of children and young people. Exposure to adversity, particularly in early childhood, can lead to lifelong impairment of learning, behavior, and physical and mental health (Shonkoff, Boyce, & McEwen, 2009).

While some stress in life is normal and even necessary for development—children need to experience some emotional stress in order to develop healthy coping mechanisms and problem solving skills—the type of stress a child experiences when exposed to a conflict or natural disaster can become toxic if there is intense, repeated, and extended activation of the body’s stress response system, particularly if there is no supportive adult figure to offer protection (Center on the Developing Child, 2016Shonkoff & Garner, 2012).

Why is education a relevant channel through which to provide psychosocial support?

  • Safe schools and non-formal learning spaces are some of the most beneficial environments for children and youth during a period of uncertainty. Intentional investment in education-based PSS has proven to protect them against the negative effects of disasters by creating stable routines, providing opportunities for friendship and play, fostering hope, reducing stress, encouraging self expression, and promoting collaborative behavior (Action for the Rights of Children, 2002, unpublished manuscript; Alexander, Boothby, & Wessells, 2010Masten, Gewirtz, & Sapienza, 2013).

  • Psychosocial wellbeing is a significant precursor to learning and is essential for academic achievement; it thus has important bearing on the future prospects of both individuals and societies.
     
  • PSS and SEL approaches work best when integrated into the different spheres of young people’s lives. Since education settings bring children and their peers, parents, families, and communities together, they can help create a supportive environment that promotes improved psychosocial wellbeing. Ideally, the education and community settings that surround each child work together to ensure that they receive the best possible care and follow up; this includes communication between teachers and parents, counsellors if needed, etc.

What does psychosocial mean?

Psychosocial refers to “the dynamic relationship between the psychological and social dimension of a person, where the one influences the other” (IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support, 2014). The psychological aspects of development refer to an individual’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, memories, perceptions, and understanding. The social aspects of development refer to the interaction and relationships among the individual, family, peers, and community (UNRWA, 2016). 

What is psychosocial support?

Psychosocial support, or “PSS”, refers to the “processes and actions that promote the holistic wellbeing of people in their social world. It includes support provided by family and friends” (INEE, 2010). PSS can also be described as “a process of facilitating resilience within individuals, families and communities” (IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support, 2009). PSS aims to help individuals recover after a crisis has disrupted their lives and to enhance their ability to return to normality after experiencing adverse events. 

What is social and emotional learning?

NRC
© NRC

Social and emotional learning, or “SEL”, has been defined as the process of acquiring core competencies to recognize and manage emotions, set and achieve goals, appreciate the perspectives of others, establish and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle interpersonal situations constructively” (Elias, Zins, Weissberg et al., 1997). The qualities SEL aims to foster include self awareness, emotional literacy, cognitive flexibility, improved memory, resilience, persistence, motivation, empathy, social and relationship skills, effective communication, listening skills, self esteem, self confidence, respect, and self regulation (INEE, 2016). SEL is an important component that sits under the PSS umbrella. INEE views SEL as an important component of PSS that educators can and should address, since it is a practice easily and often employed in educational settings and one that contributes to children’s and youths’ improved psychosocial wellbeing. It is a pedagogical practice and process that is especially fitting in both formal and non formal educational environments, since it promotes the skills and abilities that help children, young people, and adults learn.

What is meant by “wellbeing”?

Wellbeing is defined as a condition of holistic health and the process of achieving this condition. It refers to physical, emotional, social, and cognitive health. Wellbeing includes what is good for a person: having a meaningful social role; feeling happy and hopeful; living according to good values, as locally defined; having positive social relations and a supportive environment; coping with challenges through positive life skills; and having security, protection, and access to quality services. Aspects of wellbeing include: biological, material, social, spiritual, cultural, emotional, and mental (ACT Alliance & Church of Sweden, 2015). 

 

This collection was developed with the support of Andrea Diaz-Varela, Right to Play, and Caroline Keenan, War Child Canada, both members of the INEE PSS-SEL Collaborative.

Manual/Handbook/Guide

INEE Guidance Note on Psychosocial Support

Published by
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

The purpose of the INEE Guidance Note on Psychosocial Support is to clarify the importance of supporting the psychosocial wellbeing of children and youth, and to offer specific strategies for how to incorporate psychosocial support (PSS) into education responses.

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Chinese (Mandarin)
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Report

INEE Background Paper on Psychosocial Support and Social & Emotional Learning for Children & Youth

Published by
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

The purpose of this paper is to clarify relevant terminologies and approaches relating to psychosocial well-being and social and emotional learning (SEL) in education in crisis affected contexts, and to explore how psychosocial support (PSS) and social and emotional learning relate to one another.

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Training Material

INEE PSS-SEL Training Module

Published by
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

This module outlines 3 hours (180 minutes) of training activities and materials related to psychosocial support (PSS) and social and emotional learning (SEL) in emergency contexts. It includes supplementary activities to further understanding of PSS-SEL concepts, for an extended duration of 5 hours (270 minutes).

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English
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Manual/Handbook/Guide

Community-Based PSS: Participant's Book, Trainer's Book and Powerpoints

Published by
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

The Community-based psychosocial support. A training kit is part of our efforts to facilitate capacity building of National Societies as well as competence building of staff and volunteers. We hope that it will be a useful tool for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as for other stakeholders in the field of psychosocial support.

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Training Material

Safe Healing and Learning Spaces Toolkit

Published by
International Rescue Committee (IRC)

The SHLS Toolkit provides frontline humanitarian staff with practical implementation guidance, adaptable sample tools, comprehensive training materials, and scripted instructional content. Resources are provided for a 9-month program, and applicable in both rural and urban areas, based on locally-defined needs and priorities. 

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English
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Greek
Manual/Handbook/Guide

Families Make the Difference Toolkit

Published by
International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Parenting skills training toolkits including facilitator's guide, trainer's manual and programme sessions focused on adolescence (ages 6-11 & 12-18) and guides for programme Implementation and training manual with ECCD focus (ages 0-5).

English
Manual/Handbook/Guide

Guidelines for Child Friendly Spaces in Emergencies

Published by
Global Education Cluster
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)

The purpose of these principles is to give practical guidance to the field teams that establish CFSs in different types of emergencies and contexts.

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings

Published by
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) issued these Guidelines to enable humanitarian actors to plan, establish and coordinate a set of minimum multi-sectoral responses to protect and improve peoples mental health and psychosocial well-being in the midst of an emergency.

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

Managing Stress in the Field

Published by
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

This publication has been conceived as a practical manual. The different types of stress experienced by delegates are described along with the associated symptoms. It highlights the importance of identifying and knowing personal, team and organisational resources.

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

Orientation Seminar: Disseminate and Implement IASC Guidelines on MH and PSS in Emergency Settings

Published by
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

This guide was developed to inform specific target audiences about the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. The design follows six parts: 1) Assessment 2) Goals 3) Seminar Step-by-step 4) Monitoring of learning during the seminar 5) Evaluation and 6) Reading and Handouts.

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

Psychosocial Interventions: A Handbook

Published by
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

This handbook prepared by the International Federation Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support (the PS Centre) reflects the increasingly active role that the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement plays in psychosocial responses.

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

Psychological First Aid: Guide for Field Workers

Published by
World Health Organization (WHO)
World Vision
,
War Trauma Foundation

This guide covers psychological first aid which involves humane, supportive and practical help to fellow human beings suffering serious crisis events. It is written for people in a position to help others who have experienced an extremely distressing event. It gives a framework for supporting people in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities.

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Training Material

Psychosocial Support Resource Pack

Published by
American Refugee Committee (ARC)

This module provides practical information, guidelines, examples and tools to support organisations and key actors to undertake psychosocial support to bring about positive change for children in humanitarian contexts.

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Academic Material/Syllabus

Restoring family links and PSS: E-learning

Published by
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

The goal of this e-learning course is to increase awareness and knowledge of PSS and RFL practitioners with respect to each other’s area of expertise, so they are able to address the needs of beneficiaries more holistically.

English
Training Material

Basic PSS in education: A training manual for teachers and other stakeholders

Published by
Government of Sierra Leone, MEST

This 3-day psychosocial support (PSS) for teachers and other stakeholders aims to assist people working in Sierra Leone’s education sector to feel to support the psychosocial wellbeing of pupils in classrooms and the wider school environment.

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

The Children's Resilience Programme: Psychosocial support in and out of schools

Published by
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
Save the Children

The programme is a nonclinical psychosocial and protection methodology that focuses on children’s positive coping and resilience. The Child Resilience Programme comprises 8-16 structured workshops for children 10-16 years old.

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Training Material

Creating Healing Classrooms

Published by
International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Included are a collection of guides and tools that were created and piloted through the International Rescue Committee's (IRC) Healing Classrooms Initiative. 

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

The Psychosocial Care and Protection of Children in Emergencies: Teacher Training Manual

Published by
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

In order to strengthen its efforts to promote psychosocial support within educational programming in emergencies, UNICEF has developed these teacher-training materials to promote greater understanding of the impact of and effective responses to the psychosocial impact of emergencies on learners.

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Manual/Handbook/Guide

Guide to the Evaluation of PSS Programming in Humanitarian Crises

Published by
Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF together with partners has developed this Inter-Agency Guide to the Evaluation of Psychosocial Programming in Humanitarian Crises to assist organizations working in the field of psychosocial support to think through key issues in planning and implementing an evaluation.

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