Helpdesk for aid workers with questions about psychological counselling
The war in Ukraine has caused hundreds of thousands of residents, especially women, children and the elderly, to flee to Europe. It is triggering an unprecedented wave of solidarity among countries, organisations and citizens in Europe who want to receive Ukrainian refugees. At the same time, it also raises many questions about what help is needed and appropriate at this time.
It is heart-warming to see the warm reactions and solidarity of all those citizens and volunteers who want to receive Ukrainian refugees and the unity and solidarity that Europe shows in welcoming refugees from Ukraine. This warm reception is necessary to prevent psychological problems or to prevent past traumas from worsening. This applies to all refugees, by the way. A warm welcome and the prevention of retraumatisation are important for integration and benefit society as a whole.
What psychological help is needed?
The demand for specialized psychological help is understandable, but in the first place all aid workers, from professionals over organised volunteers to civilians, who receive refugees are the best ‘psychologists on duty’. Because, first and foremost, people from war zones need normalisation, structure and regularity, restored trust, for children the ability to be a child, even for a few hours a day. At the moment, voluntary or professional social workers can offer this support best, not specialised psychologists.
In time, specialised help may become necessary, when the spontaneous processing of war and refugee experiences falters and people find it difficult to function properly (cognitively, emotionally, behaviourally). In professional terms, we speak of a post-traumatic stress syndrome or a stunted grieving process. Naturally, we see this proportionally more in people who are on the run, but in Solentra we mainly witness the resilience of people. That resilience, however, depends very much on a safe living environment and future prospects.
Of course, sometimes specialised help will be needed immediately if the extra stress from the war situation grafts on to old wounds or if there is a psychological vulnerability. Then specialised, transcultural psychiatric help in the language of the refugee is needed to treat war trauma.
Helpdesk for aid workers
The first help we can offer as specialised mental health workers is to support volunteers and professionals who take in refugees. Sometimes they need tools to support the refugees, sometimes they want to tell their own story when the stories they hear become too heavy. That is why we open our helpdesk to all professional and voluntary aid workers who receive refugees.
Picture: Pakkin Leung@Rice Post, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons