Instability in Libya has a negative effect on the psychosocial well-being of Libyan people and migrants alike. The situation for migrants and refugees is of concern due to their lack of access to health and psychosocial services, and the overall quality and scarcity of mental health services available in Libya. Migrants experience abnormal stressors though their migratory journey, including perilous travel, exploitation, arbitrary detention, trafficking and smuggling, rape, violence and abuse, rejection and social isolation, lack of community and family support, and insecure living conditions. Individuals can acquire mental health disorders, such as depression or psychosis. 

In Libya, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs are chronically neglected due to longstanding challenges that include shortage of qualified specialists, like psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in the workforce, weak community-based and specialized services, lack of mental health facilities and psychosocial support centres throughout the country, lack of support to existing facilities, and social stigma towards people with mental health disorders.
IOM has been providing MHPSS services throughout Libya since 2011, offering counselling, group support activities, creative and art-based activities, socio-relational and cultural activities, recreational activities, psychiatric and psychological assessment and consultations, and referrals for migrants in detention centres, households and at disembarkation points. 

IOM follows the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) guidelines on MHPSS in Emergency Settings and has developed methodologies to extend support to populations on the move. MHPSS services are often coordinated and delivered jointly with Health and Protection interventions to ensure a comprehensive and integrated approach when addressing the needs of migrant populations. 


The MHPSS programme aims to empower communities and increase resilience, reduce suffering and promote psychosocial well-being, improve mental health and treat or prevent mental disorders, and enhance accessibility to MHPSS services to affected populations, migrants and Libyans alike.

Areas of Intervention

Community-Based MHPSS Support – Direct Services

MHPSS mobile teams follow a community-based approach to respond to the different psychosocial needs of affected populations. Teams currently operate in Al Kufra, Bani Waleed, Benghazi, Misrata, Sabha, Tripoli and Zwara, providing services to migrants in detention centres and urban settings, including shelters, migrant households, health facilities, emergency settings and at disembarkation points. MHPSS services include counselling, group support activities, psychological first aid, creative and art-based activities, socio-relational and cultural activities, recreational activities, including sport, psychological assessment and consultations, and referrals to specialized mental health services.

Capacity-Building and Community Engagement

The MHPSS programme aims to enhance the capacity of relevant local and active partners and stakeholders that work with migrants and affected populations. The programme provides training and workshops to first responders from national governmental agencies involved in migration management, national health workers and local civil society workers. These activities equip participants with knowledge on mental health and psychosocial key concepts, the psychosocial needs of vulnerable migrants and local population groups, and the application of MHPSS in emergencies, such as psychological first aid and supportive communication skills.

MHPSS Mainstreaming and Supporting National Coordination

IOM co-chairs the MHPSS Technical Working Group (TWG) for Libya with the International Medical Corps and the Ministry of Health. The MHPSS TWG provides technical guidance and capacity-building by working with all actors to improve responses to mental health and psychosocial needs across Libya. It advocates for the increased protection and assistance of vulnerable groups, focusing indiscriminately on all persons in need. The MHPSS TWG also works on strengthening communication, coordination and collaboration between all MHPSS partners and stakeholders, including conducting service mapping and developing MHPSS referral pathways. The TWG also provides guidance through its participation at bilateral and humanitarian sector meetings to ensure MHPSS is mainstreamed and the psychosocial needs of affected populations are considered.

COVID-19 Challenges and Response

The outbreak of COVID-19 restricted the provision of MHPSS activities in urban locations, while MHPSS needs increased for vulnerable migrants in communities. The MHPSS programme has responded to these challenges by providing MHPSS assistance to individuals, providing counselling and psychological first aid, remote counselling through an MHPSS helpline, organizing awareness-raising sessions on COVID-19 and stress management, conducting psychoeducation sessions to migrants with mental disorders and their caregivers, and following up closely on migrants with MHPSS needs.