Resilience as Resistance: Mental health and well-being in human rights

What risks advocates face and how they might be mitigated?

Studio Incendo/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The mental health and well-being of advocates has often been neglected by human rights organizations, funders, and advocates themselves. Recently, however, activists and mental health professionals have begun giving the issue more attention, exploring what risks advocates face and how they might be mitigated. Human rights organizations increasingly want to bolster the resilience and creativity of their staff and constituents. Defenders increasingly see their own well-being as an imperative for sustainable movements.

This series examines a range of critical questions and issues including: research conducted on the mental health impacts of human rights work, obstacles to advancing mental health and well-being in this field, as well as innovative approaches and strategies to prevent and alleviate the harmful effects of human rights work.

Collaborating Guest Editors: Fred AbrahamsFarea Al-MuslimiSarah KnuckeyDouglas MawadriLucia Nader, and Meg Satterthwaite


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By: Loretta Pyles

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September 11, 2018
By: Keetie Roelen

Non-invasive and non-punitive interventions that draw on positive emotions have promising potential ...

Self-care for sustainable movements: difficult but necessary

May 31, 2018
By: Gulika Reddy

Donors, organizations and staff in the peacebuilding and human rights fields need to talk about the ...

Creating a healing space for women human rights defenders

May 10, 2018
By: Ana María Hernández Cárdenas & Nallely Guadalupe Tello Méndez

Self-care and collective care do not erase the stress and tensions of everyday life, but using these ...

Avoiding the “access abyss”: palliative care, pain relief, and human rights

April 12, 2018
By: Ravindran Daniel

The last decade has seen major developments in recognizing palliative care and pain treatment as a human ...

Building the foundations of resilience: 11 lessons for human rights educators and supervisors

March 7, 2018
By: Sarah Knuckey & Su Anne Lee

Educators and managers can play an important role in building the next generation of resilient human ...

The forgotten advocates of children's rights in Guatemala

September 1, 2017
By: Myrella Saadeh

In Guatemala, children’s rights advocates are often the most heavily burdened and the most frequently ...

New threats against human rights defenders require new kinds of protection

July 11, 2017
By: Padre Melo

Human rights organizations and funders in Latin America need to rethink how they protect defenders ...

Integrating a psychosocial perspective in human rights works

June 27, 2017
By: Maik Müller

Integrating a psychosocial perspective requires the incorporation of psychosocial support and self-care ...

“No One Warned Me”: the trade-off between self-care and effective activism

June 20, 2017
By: Yara Sallam

Is there a trade off between protecting your mental health as an activist and doing effective work?

Making our movements sustainable: practicing holistic security every day

June 15, 2017
By: Deepa Ranganathan & María Díaz Ezquerro
Español | العربية | Français

What does holistic security and collective self-care in human rights work look like on a day-to-day ...

Revolutions are built on hope: the role of funders in collective self-care

May 31, 2017
By: Shena Cavallo & Jocelyn Berger & Michelle Truong

Funder practices are vital to alleviate partner advocates’ stress, anxiety, and burnout from uncertainty ...

Collective care in human rights funding: a political stand

May 18, 2017
By: Meerim Ilyas & Tatiana Cordero Velásquez
العربية | Português | Español

To support the activists and groups that we fund, donors must engage in honest conversations around ...

Ready for anything: how preparation can improve trauma recovery

May 11, 2017
By: Zelalem Kibret

When in the field, human rights workers must be better prepared for trauma in order to heal from it.

When advocacy work builds resilience, everyone benefits

May 11, 2017
By: Kristi Pinderi
Español | shqiptar

For many, activism can be healthy and healing.

Security and well-being: two sides of the same coin

May 10, 2017
By: Holly Davis & Magda Adamowicz

By not paying enough attention to self-care, activists are compromising their own security—and that ...

Turning weakness into strength: lessons as a new advocate

April 27, 2017
By: Alexandra Zetes

Without adequate preparation, new human rights advocates can be easily traumatized and struggle to understand ...

Healthy for the long haul: building resilience in human rights workers

April 11, 2017
By: Fred Abrahams
Español | العربية

Human rights organizations are finally recognizing that mental health programs for their own staff are ...

Fighting stigma: protecting the mental health of African rights advocates

April 9, 2017
By: Douglas Mathew Mawadri
Français | العربية

Human rights advocates in Africa face significant challenges in getting past mental health stigmas in ...

Evidence of trauma: the impact of human rights work on advocates

April 7, 2017
By: Meg Satterthwaite
Español | Français

It’s time to think seriously about the effects of trauma on human rights activists.