Solentra was shortlisted for the 2021 EU Health Award with its free helpline for refugees during the corona pandemic. This year’s award focused on community-based initiatives that sought to alleviate Covid’s impact on mental health.
The corona pandemic hit refugees extra hard. They were confronted with extra stress, panic attacks and psychosocial problems, on top of the already existing problems of trauma or depression. Moreover, during the lockdowns it was more difficult to mobilise stakeholders to identify and formulate a request for help with the refugees. Therefore Solentra introduced a free psychological helpline in Arabic, Dari and Farsi for refugees during the lockdowns in 2020-2021. The helpline was promoted through refugee support organisations, reception centres and flyering on the street.
Tapping into resilience and early detection of severe psychological problems
A team of psychologists listened to the refugee’s story, offered psycho-education, techniques and exercises to reduce stress and anxiety, and tried to tap into the refugees’ resilience. The most common complaints were stress, sleep problems, worrying, anxiety, feelings of depression and feelings of powerlessness. Reasons why refugees considered the helpline to be useful were: getting advice and information, peace of mind, feeling hopeful again, regaining more control over feelings and their lives, feeling less alone. The helpline also allowed for early detection of serious problems.