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Supporting mental health of UN personnel in hardship duty stations

Some 300 UN Volunteers support the work of the United Nations in Afghanistan, half with the United Nations Mission Assistance in Afghanistan (UNAMA). International UN Volunteer, Karuna Kunwar from Nepal, is a Staff Counsellor supporting UN personnel’s mental well-being and work-stress management with UNAMA in Kabul.

Karuna began her volunteer assignment in November 2022. She helps build the resilience of personnel and says, “My goal is to significantly impact the lives of those affected by various crises. Through personalized counseling sessions, I help individuals and groups manage their mental health and effectively cope with their challenges.” 

I take pride in positively impacting Afghan women which has given me new perspectives and insights that continually help me to grow as an individual." -- Karuna Kunwar, UN Volunteer Staff Counsellor with UNAMA.

Gladys Byanjeru-Kasirye, Medical, Staff Counselling and Welfare Section at UNAMA commends Kunwar’s work “Mental health is a crucial aspect of our well-being, encompassing thoughts, emotions, and navigating life's challenges. It is influenced by personal life, work pressures, and mental health issues. Just like physical health requires fitness and improvement, recognizing distress and seeking support is essential.  Staff counsellors like Karuna encourage thorough support of these issues to avoid additional harm in personal and professional life.”

In 2023, Karuna was one of the panelists of the ‘Voices of Change - Peace Begins with Me’ organized by UNV's capacity-building section, where she discussed the concept of peace beginning with oneself. 

She also created a mental health podcast featuring the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan, Roza Otunbayeva.

All these make her proud in her volunteering journey, emphasizing the importance of preventing and responding to similar situations worldwide. 

Although she says that witnessing the suffering, trauma, and stress of others takes a heavy emotional toll on her, she’s not stopping any time soon. 

My commitment to serving those providing the much-needed humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan remains unwavering." --Karuna Kunwar, UN Volunteer Staff Counsellor with UNAMA.

United Nations personnel serving in hardship duty stations undergo critical stress and work-related incidents that have significant impacts on their well-being and mental health. This is where UN Volunteers like Karuna play an essential role in addressing the mental health challenges experienced by personnel in hardship duty stations.

Karuna Kunwar (left), Staff Counsellor with UNAMA during a session with a UN personnel on mental well-being in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 2023.
Karuna Kunwar (left), international UN Volunteer Staff Counsellor with UNAMA during a session with UN personnel on mental well-being in Kabul. @ UNV, 2023.


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