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Candlelight_vigil_in_London_for_the_victims_of_the_Peshawar_school_siege.The South Asia Institute has partnered with the Aman Foundation to host a conference on Mental Health in Disaster Response in Karachi, Pakistan on December 16-18, 2015, including a public lecture with Clinical Psychologist Sharmeen Khan.

Conference Agenda

Conference on Mental Health in Disaster Response in Pakistan

Co sponsored by The Aman Foundation, Pakistan and Harvard University South Asia Institute

Wednesday December 16, 2015

Local and International Perspectives on Mental Health in Disaster Response

Disasters, whether natural or manmade, profoundly influence lives. Through a chain of catastrophic sequences, they damage the built environment, cause death and injury, overwhelm psychological coping and can devastate communities. They are often events difficult to predict, prevent and control. It is this very nature of disasters that requires communities to organize themselves in advance in extremely challenging circumstances to prepare for timely and effective disaster and post-disaster relief work.


5:30 – 6:00 pm: Tea + Registration

6:00 – 8:00 pm

Opening Remarks: Mental Health in Disaster Management and Emergency Response

Dr. Jennifer Leaning, FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health; Director FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University

Keynote Address: Coping in the wake of Disasters: Long term Effects of Traumatic life Changing Situations. 

Sharmeen Khan, Clinical Psychologist, Press Secretary, Resettling the Indus, CEO at Homeostasis

Sharmeen Khan is a Karachi-based mental health professional and a human rights activist. She has successfully ran various campaigns to provide relief at several disasters from the earthquake of 2005 to the earthquake of 2015, as well as other natural and man-made disasters both in Pakistan and abroad. She spearheaded the Naya Jeevan initiative of providing psychological help to survivors of the Army Public School, Peshawar attack. Sharmeen is currently working towards completing a PhD in Disaster Psychology at the University of Karachi.

Panel Discussion:

Dr. Jennifer Leaning, FXB Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health; Director FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard University

Dr. Ruth Barron, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Director of Outpatient Psychiatry, Cambridge Health Alliance, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dr. Ayesha Mian, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Agha Khan University, Karachi

Dr. Saadia Quraishy, CEO, AMAN Healthcare Services, Karachi

Sharmeen Khan, Clinical Psychologist, Press Secretary, Resettling the Indus, CEO at Homeostasis

Roundtable Discussion on Mental Health in Disaster Response: A Roundtable Discussion on Sustainable Rapid Response to Disasters in Pakistan.

A two-day workshop will convene local stakeholders including mental health professionals, first responders and representatives from the government and media to understand the current landscape of mental health response in Pakistan.

By bringing together various stakeholders in this discussion, we hope to identify existing challenges, best practices and innovations around mental health relief efforts in the wake of natural and manmade disasters. By recognizing the importance of post-disaster support, this workshop will explore the initiatives that can be undertaken to create coping mechanisms for trauma survivors, caregivers and service providers.

Thursday December 17, 2015 (09:00am – 05:30pm)

8:30 – 9:00 am: Registration + Breakfast

9:00 – 10:00 am: Introduction + Breakfast

Dr. Saadia Quraishy and Dr. Ruth Barron

10:00 – 12:00 pm: Session 1: Present Landscape of Response to Disasters in Pakistan

Suggested questions to explore:

  • What is the current status around mental health and rapid response to disasters, in Pakistan?

12:00 – 1:00 pm: Lunch

1:00 – 3:00 pm: Session 2: Models of Mental Health Disaster Response

Suggested questions to explore:

  • What are international case studies and best practices of mental health interventions as a response to disasters?
  • What lessons can be drawn from comparative disasters, such as the 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan and the 2011 Earthquake in Japan?


  • Jennifer Leaning
  • Ruth Barron
  • Murad Khan
  • Naseer Mahmood

3:00 – 3:30 pm: Tea Break

3:30 – 5:30 pm: Session 3: Role of Community Stakeholders in Disaster Response

Suggested questions to explore

  • Who are the first-responders at the time of disasters in Pakistan?
  • What is the role of law-enforcement, government, health practitioners and community organizations in the event of a disaster?
  • How can media be a partner in collaborating with mental health relief workers to disseminate critical information to the public?


  • Ayesha Mian
  • Seema Monaf
  • Khalid Mufti
  • Sehrish Shaban

8:00 – 10 pm: Dinner with Harvard Alumni

Friday December 18, 2015 (09:00 am – 1:00 pm)

9:00 – 9:30 am: Breakfast

9:30 – 11:30 pm: Session 4: Importance of Post-disaster Interventions

Suggested questions to explore

  • How can coping mechanisms be strengthened to address the impact of disasters on survivors, health care providers, caregivers and the community at large?


  • Taha Sabri
  • Salman Shehzad

11:30 – 1:00 pm: Session 5: Post-conference Debrief: Identifying and Sustaining the Outcomes of the Discussion

  • Roundtable participants, Aman Foundation and Harvard SAI team will jointly discuss next steps following the roundtable event.