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Michael G. Wessells

Professor of Clinical of Population and Family Health

Michael Wessells, PhD, is Professor at Columbia University in the Program on Forced Migration and Health. A long time psychosocial and child protection practitioner, he is former Co-Chair of the IASC Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. Recently, he was co-focal point on mental health and psychosocial support for the revision of the Sphere humanitarian standards. He has conducted extensive research on the holistic impacts of war and political violence on children, and he is author of Child soldiers: From violence to protection (Harvard University Press, 2006). Currently, he is lead researcher on inter-agency, multi-country action research on strengthening community-based child protection mechanisms by enabling effective linkages with national child protection systems. He regularly advises UN agencies, governments, and donors on issues of child protection and psychosocial support, including in communities and schools. Throughout Africa and Asia he helps to develop community-based, culturally grounded programs that assist people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters.
Education & Training:

    PhD, 1974, University of Massachusetts

    MA, 1973, University of Massachusetts

    BA, 1970, Roanoke College

  • Co-Chair, IASC Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, 2005-2007
  • President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, 1994-1996
  • President, Division of Peace Psychology, American Psychological Association, 1991-1992
Honors and Awards:
  • International Humanitarian Award 2009, American Psychological Association
  • Ralph K. White Lifetime Achievement Award, 2008, from the Society for the Study of Peace,
  • Marion Langer Award on Human Rights and Social Action, 2005, American Orthopsychiatric Association
  • Selected Editorial Boards

    • Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology
    • Intervention
    Interagency Action Research on Strengthening Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms
    This interagency research in Sierra Leone and Kenya is part of a bottom-up approach to developing effective national child protection systems and strengthening the evidence base regarding which child protection mechanisms improve children's lives. It includes ethnographic study of current child protection mechanisms at community level, definition of population based outcomes for gauging the effectiveness of national child protection systems, and action research that enables local communities to develop and take steps to strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms by linking effectively with national child protection systems.
    Countries: Sierra Leone; Kenya

Selected Publications:
  • V. Maholmes & R. King The Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Child Development Oxford University Press New York in press
  • S. Gates & S. Reich (Eds.) Child soldiers in the age of fractured states University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA, USA 183-199 2010
  • Wessells, M. Do No Harm: Toward contextually appropriate psychosocial support in international emergencies. American Psychologist 64 842-854 2009
  • Wessells, M. Child soliders: From violence to prevention Harvard University Press Cambridge, MA, U. S. 2006

Contact Information


17028 Little River Drive

Beaverdam, VA 23015

U. S.



For inquiries contact:

Michael Wessells