HPRT’s clinical, scientific and training efforts have all been aimed at influencing national and global mental health policy for the rehabilitation and care of traumatized persons throughout the world. More than 60 nations have been recently devastated by mass violence. Hundreds of millions of traumatized civilians and refugees suffer from physical and functional disability due to untreated psychiatric morbidity associated with mass violence. Twenty years ago, when HPRT began its scientific and clinical work, the mental health conditions of traumatized persons were completely neglected. HPRT and a small number of scientific investigators worldwide have revolutionized this field by placing mental health on the international policy agenda for the first time.
Many seminal policy meetings and documents form a foundation to the emergence of a specific global mental health policy for traumatized persons that has emerged into public view only over the past five years.
The single most important document, the basis of all subsequent policy developments in health and mental health, is the The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948.
However, it was not until more than four decades later that the mental health of refugees was addressed for the first time in the “Draft Guidelines for the Evaluation and Care of Victims of Trauma and Violence” known as the Utrecht Guidelines
In 1998 HPRT, in collaboration with Waseda University, hosted a major international meeting funded by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Policy to address the social and economic impact of the mental health effects of mass violence and trauma. Leading policy makers, scholars and medical scientists came to this meeting from Japan, the U.S., Croatia, Bosnia and Cambodia. The meeting resulted in a major policy document, “The Tokyo Guidelines for Trauma and Reconstruction.”
On December 3-4, 2004, the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) convened Project 1 Billion, an international congress of Ministers of Health for mental health and post-conflict recovery in Rome, Italy. This historical meeting was first piloted in Sarajevo BIH two years earlier with seven Ministers of Health from Afghanistan, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cambodia, Indonesia, Peru, Rwanda and Uganda to draft the Global Mental Health Action Plan (GMHAP) in order to determine the feasibility of Project 1 Billion, as well as outline the vision and mission statement which included generating and disseminating the textbook entitled “Global Mental Health: Trauma and Recovery—A Companion Guide for Field and Clinical Care of Traumatized People Worldwide”. The World Health Organization (WHO) mental health representatives were invited to participate in both the Sarajevo and Rome meetings which had a direct impact on the 2013 WHO Mental Health Action Plan (MHAP) one decade later. HPRT views the 2004 GMHAP as a framework for effective interventions especially in manmade and natural disasters that require a multi-disciplinary response from the complex emergency phase to the recovery stage of healing the impacted society.
In 2014, the HPRT released The New H5 Model of Trauma and Recovery to support the care of refugees and other highly traumatized persons and communities.