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.
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 & Awards
Areas of Expertise
Select Global Activities
Interagency Action Research on Strengthening Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms, Kenya, Sierra Leone: 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.
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