Virtual Conference
Mental Health 2022

Medhanye Alem

The Center for Victims of Torture, Ethiopia

Title: Programming to Address Suicidal Behaviour among Unaccompanied Refugee Minors in a Camp Setting: A Field Report from Ethiopia


In response to a perceived increase in suicidal ideation and behaviour among minors and especially unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) in camps for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, we developed a multilayered response programme. This programme included public awareness and stigma-reduction campaigns, psychoeducation aimed at both UASC and their caregivers, capacity building for humanitarian and community partners, group and individual counselling for UASC and crisis response and postvention. We offer learnings from the development and implementation of this programme, highlighting the importance of working with relevant constructs such as grief, guilt, attachment and identity. It is our hope that our learnings will be informative and helpful to practitioners working with displaced UASC in other contexts. Recognising the heightened risk factors experienced by young people with trauma histories currently in camp settings, we recommend the coordinated development of a suicide prevention and response plan as a core component of any humanitarian response. 


Medhanye Alem has completed his Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from Aksum University. He has completed Mental Health in Complex Emergencies course in Amman from Fordham University; Counselling in Trauma and Stress and Managing Teams and Organizations organized by KURVE Wustrow – Centre for Training and Networking in Nonviolent Action in Germany. Medhanye has worked with the Center for Victims of Torture since October 2014 in leading MHPSS programs as a Psychotherapist/Trainer. He has ample experience in responding to suicidal cases with Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, migrants in Djibouti and urban refugees from different countries in Nairobi, Kenya. Medhanye was accorded technical visits to Centrum '45, the STRENGTHS project and NIDOS in Amsterdam, the Netherlands to contribute from his experience, learn and exchange information about Eritrean unaccompanied and separated refugee children’s trauma healing processes in countries of first asylum as well as resettlement. In the current Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, which broke out in November 2021 and led to massive displacements, massacres and arbitrary killings, Medhanye as a frontline worker, he continued playing a vital role in establishing and coordinating MHPSS emergency responses by consolidating limited resources.