Psychosocial support during an outbreak of Ebola virus disease

Ebola epidemics are unlike anything seen before: The virus spreads rapidly, the disease is infectious and has a high mortality rate, and often there are widespread rumors, misconceptions and misinformation about the disease and how to prevent it are widespread.

Psychosocial support is vital to ensure the well-being of the affected population, and also to counter-act the threats to public health and safety that fear, stigmatization and misconception poses.

When people of concern have access to information, understand the disease and how it spreads, feel supported and are calmed, understand their own needs and reactions, they are much more inclined to comply with instructions from health personnel, change habits and to support each other in finding ways to adapt and reconstruct community life. Furthermore, psychosocial support to expatriate and local staff and volunteers, is important as all are working under extremely stressful conditions.

This briefing note provides background knowledge on the psychosocial aspects related to Ebola and suggests psychosocial support activities that can be implemented. The messages can be helpful for all staff and volunteers who are in contact with patients, relatives and feel the strain of working and living during the epidemic.

This briefing is based on the briefing note developed by the PS Centre in 2014 in connection with the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. It is also available in French.