ZEF Public Lecture on Mental Health and Trauma in Conflict-Affected Afghanistan

February 17, 2022 | 13:30 h - 14:30 h

Speaker: Lyla Schwartz (Founding Director of Peace of Mind Afghanistan)

Title: Mental Health and Trauma in Conflict-Affected Afghanistan


Mental health is highly stigmatized in Afghanistan, with tangible and intangible - financial, physical and social - barriers to accessing and affording healthcare preventing large segments of society from receiving help. A country that has suffered over 40 years of war and conflict, and where strict gender roles and traditional religious customs are followed, struggles to address the huge issues interlinking mental health, trauma and violence. We will touch upon the subject of mental health in conflict settings, why mental health is so stigmatized in Afghanistan and what implications that has for the most vulnerable of Afghanistan’s population, and how our research at POMA will respond to this. Our current work aims to culturally adapt a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) program called START NOW, developed by the University of Basel, to meet the needs of Afghan migrants in Switzerland. The study would involve contextualizing existing skills training modules, and developing additional ones, to deliver to migrants. The program will be guided by Western empirical methods of psychotherapy, delivered in a culturally sensitive and culturally-relatable approach. Our aim is to improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress amongst this population, often marginalized by a health service that is inaccessible and unaffordable to them. Once tested with migrants in Europe, we endeavor to take an e-mental health service version to Afghanistan.


Lyla Schwartz is a clinical psychology practitioner and researcher with expertise in childhood trauma, gender-based violence, childhood abandonment, war-conflict trauma, emergency psychological interventions and behavioral health. After working in the mental health sector in the United States, she engaged in critical frontline work in Haiti, South Africa, India, Peru, Thailand and Iraq with a focus on providing emergency psychological aid to youth traumatized by armed conflict, victims of torture and exploitation and youth at risk of suicide. In Greece, her work with vulnerable Afghan refugee youths spurred her to pursue emergency work in Afghanistan and from early 2018, she was based in Kabul and engaged in frontline critical psychological care provision. She forged partnerships with Afghan hospitals, aid organizations and government agencies. She is the founding director of Peace of Mind Afghanistan (POMA). Since September 2021, Lyla has been based in Switzerland, providing mental health and psychological support to Afghan and wider migrants in Switzerland, and continuing her education. Lyla is currently engaged in critical research, assessments, evaluations, policy development and action frameworks to bring about better outcomes in the Afghan mental health sector.

Registration: https://uni-bonn.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwkcO2prjkvGtLAz1YMJD-PU9x3VwY_XWuO

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Contact: Fazlullah Akhtar (fakhtar1(at)uni-bonn.de)