Between Borders is a research, policy and practice organisation bridging forced displacement with neuroscience, somatism and mental health across a range of displacement contexts, including conflict, climate change, natural disasters, statelessness, and development.
Addressed through a mind-body-brain lens, we explore how creative therapies and dynamic coping mechanisms form an essential part of psychosocial support that can allow autonomy and dignity over personal healing and resilience-building.
Through our global partnerships, we convene leaders from civil society organisations, displaced communities and the mental health sector to open discussions, develop awareness, promote knowledge exchange, and facilitate training and workshops aimed at building capacity among practitioners and within communities to respond robustly to mental health challenges and tap into resilience. We aim to consolidate communication channels between partners and widen opportunities for collaboration to ensure all those, including the displaced, have in stake in how we understand, educate, and mainstream mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in policy, practice and dialogue.
MISSION & VISION
Our mission is to prioritise mental health and psychosocial support for displaced communities and integrate neuro-somatic and psychological practices into policy, practice and dialogue.
Our vision is to ensure all persons have access to mental health care from the point of displacement to resettlement.
WHAT WE DO
PRIORITISING MENTAL HEALTH FOR THE DISPLACED.
Fragmented data, information gaps and poor communication can pose serious challenges for effective support for the displaced. More than 65 million people have been displaced by war, violence or disasters across the world. Meeting the psychological needs of families and communities undergoing fundamental changes and disruption to their lives is ever more critical.
Currently, the mental health sector is overwhelmingly reactive to large displacement crises rather than proactive in the procurement, planning and preparation stages before these emergencies break out. Critical primary care at the point of arrival in camps is based on immediate necessities such as food, water, medical aid and shelter. Yet, at the same time, people fleeing into the unknown are going through tremendous loss after losing their homes and communities and witnessing mass destruction to explosive violence. Many show themselves to be resilient over the long-term, but for others the journeys and memories can cause visceral reactions or low-lying symptoms that furment over years. In the long-term, the stress, anxiety, depression and anger can seriously impair mental health and well-being over time.
Identifying appropriate responses requires leading our research from the point of view of displaced communities. By opening up communication channels with communities and actively listening to their needs and concerns, we can address how we can better coordinate best practices and timely interventions in refugee camps, urban settings. Our ultimate aim is to ensure that by setting up collaborative platforms, communities can continue to lead on mental health training and agency over their healing process.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NEUROSCIENCE IN MENTAL HEALTH FOR DISPLACED COMMUNITIES.
While forced displacement has occurred throughout history, only recently have scientists has the means, tools and imperative to explore the impact of these phenomena on the brain and body. The new emergence of brain sciences means our understanding of the effects of forced displacement on our neurological and physiological systems is constantly growing.
Evidence from human biology and neuroscience suggest that experiences of forced displacement impact if and how the brain generates new cells and neurons. These experiences can affect the ease of forming new neural pathways, the literal size and shape of the brain responsible for threat perception, and the organisation of memories. They can affect what we fear, how we react to fear, and how we operate with anxiety and anticipation to the world around us. Beyond the individual, they can affect the DNA and mental health trajectories of subsequent generations.
Environments of peace and stability, versus violence and conflict, or climate change and scarcity therefore deeply affect our brains and bodies, in ways unique to each individual.
Insights from neuroscience play an important role as we design new interventions,
bridge across disciplines, and seek to ensure agency in those affected by forced displacement. Our research therefore cuts across a wide range of issues, including neuroscience and neurobiology, investigating and interrogating insights from the brain sciences and exploring how these insights can inform MHPSS programming, how the neuropsychology of trauma is related to mental health outcomes, and how brain science can transform how we pursue community development, psychosocial support, and resilience.
Our work has four pillars:
Pillar 1: Communication
We organise meetings and talks to facilitate learning, increase capacity for training, and knowledge-sharing between practitioners, civil society and experts. This includes sharing existing resources and designing tailored reports, guides and toolkits to meet specific needs on strategy and development in the field.
Pillar 2: Connections
Based on IASC's 4W's principles, we connect partners and identify current work based on Who, What, Where and When of MHPSS in displacement. Through our working groups and public engagement we encourage practitioners to connect and collaborate with organsations and researchers with the aim to integrate practices and latest scientific understanding in the field of mind-body-brain health and creative healing.
Pillar 3: Coordination
Our working groups of experts support brainstorming, planning and strategy on key emerging issues and methods to approach quantitative and qualitative support for creative mental therapies. Coordination will also help to identify mental health gaps and inequalities in the provision of care that will further help target capacity building and training. We build on IASC's 4W's principles to address the How and Why of organisations and practitioners work - i.e how their programmes works in the particular contexts that they operate in and the factors that illustrate positive impact. In this way, we challenge our partners to ensure their practices are working and delivering sustainable impact.
Pillar 4: Collaboration
Partners co-lead workshops, training and public engagement events to widen mental health literacy between displaced communities and host communities, and equip them with the tools and knowledge to respond holistically to preventative and responsive actions in mental health and well-being programmes; these objectives are strongly supported in resilience-building through community inclusion, social and educational skills learning, and job integration. Through these collaborations, we aim to introduce innovative and creative approaches to mental health that put displaced people at the centre of change and leadership in this field.
Between Borders' team is made up of practitioners whose background crosses various fields, including international law, humanitarian practice, neuroscience, journalism, and theatre.
The team is based primarily in London as well as Lebanon, Boston, and Amman.