By building psychosocial care into the primary health care system in Afghanistan, Inge Missmahl offers hope to a society traumatized by decades of conflict and insecurity.
From dancer to humanitarian by way of analytical psychology, Inge Missmahl's unusual life trajectory led her to Kabul in 2004, where she saw that more than 60 percent of the population were suffering from depressive symptoms and traumatic experiences -- hardly surprising in a country that had lived with ongoing violence, poverty, and insecurity for 30 years. In response, Missmahl founded the psychosocial Project Kabul for Caritas Germany, a project that trained Afghan men and women to offer psychosocial counseling in 15 centers throughout the city.
The project has offered free treatment to 12,000 clients to date, helping to restore self-determination and well-being while breaking down ingrained gender barriers and social stigma of mental illness. Psychosocial counseling is now integrated in the Afghan health system thanks to Missmahl's efforts. She now works on behalf of the European Union as Technical Advisor for Mental Health for the Afghan government, and is founder of International Psychosocial Organisation (IPSO), a network of experts dedicated to developing and implementing psychosocial programs in various contexts.
“I never knew why I survived the killings in my village, but now I know, because I am part of a nucleus of a new peaceful society in Afghanistan.”— quoting an Afghani being trained as a psycho-social counselor
“My instruments come from the heart of modern Europe, yes. However, what can wound us, and our reaction to those wounds — they are universal.”— on practicing psychology in Afghanistan