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Conflict Tipping Podcast 28: Supporting mental health in conflict with Dr Nawaraj Upadhaya

Strengthening Mental Health in Conflict Zones: A Conversation with Dr. Nawaraj Upadhaya

In this episode of the Conflict Tipping Podcast, host Laura May interviews Dr. Nawaraj Upadhaya, Global Mental Health Director at HealthRight International.

Dr. Upadhaya shares about his experience developing and implementing a WHO-associated Self-Help Plus intervention in Uganda and Sudan, targeting individuals dealing with mild to moderate stress. The intervention uses techniques based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and mindfulness and is delivered by lay health workers who need only a week’s training.

Dr. Upadhaya further elaborates on the intersection of mental health and conflict, the ethical dilemmas faced when working in conflict zones, and the need to care for frontline workers. He discusses how his personal background and experiences inform his work. Dr. Upadhaya’s approach aims to empower individuals in difficult situations to find resilience and make positive changes in their lives.

00:00 Introduction and Guest Presentation
01:16 Understanding the Self-Help Plus Intervention
04:29 The Impact of the Intervention on Participants
07:25 The Power of Resilience in Conflict Zones
08:25 The Process of Implementing the Intervention
14:22 The Future of the Intervention
28:52 The Role of Mental Health in Conflict
31:57 Ethical Considerations in Conflict Work
34:17 Caring for the Carers: Staff Wellbeing
35:27 Conclusion and Contact Information


Dr Nawaraj Upadhaya, PhD, is a public health researcher and mental health system specialist. He is currently working as Global Mental Health Director at HealthRight International, New York, USA where he provides strategic and technical support in mental health and psychosocial support programming. Dr Upadhaya is also associated with the Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark as Associate Researcher.

He has over 18 years’ experience in community health, mental health and public health systems. He has experiences of working in humanitarian settings in Afghanistan, Burundi, Nepal, Uganda and South Sudan. He has also supported the programmes in Kenya, Vietnam, Ukraine and the USA. He co-directed the scaling up grant on Self Help Plus (SH+) in Uganda and also coordinated the Nepal program for a large multicountry consortium project called Emerging Mental Health Systems in Low- and- Middle Income Countries (EMERALD). He also coordinated the Post Research Ethics Analysis (PREA) project in Afghanistan, Nepal and South Sudan.

Dr Upadhaya’s work focuses on community mobilisation, community system strengthening, mental health systems, community mental health and policy engagement. He has published more than 30 papers in international journals and contributed in book chapters and manuals.


Laura May, PhD

Laura is a freelancer, former Executive Director of the International Mediation Institute and a negotiation and mediation lecturer.  Her doctoral research asked “in what ways does blame make villains in politics” and covered the gamut from literature studies and linguistics to psychology and neuroscience, victimology to political science.  Her expertise includes emotions,… MORE

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