October 11, 2018

World Mental Health Day: Psychosocial training for refugee students

Mental health remains one of the least tackled issues facing displaced young people. The psychological impact of conflict and violence, coupled with the ongoing stressors related to losing friends, family, homes and starting again in somewhere new and perhaps hostile, can have a significant impact on psychosocial well-being of refugee young adults.

According to the International Medical Corps: “While Syrians consider suffering a normal part of life, the concept of a “psychological well-being” or “mental health” is not commonly understood and can carry a negative association. When distressed, indirect, general expressions may be used to describe their current well-being, such as ana ta’ban (تعبان أنا, ‘I am tired’) or nafsiyti ta’banah (تعبانه نفسيتي, my psyche is tired’). These expressions can represent a range of emotional symptoms. As with many Arabic communities, Syrian presentation of mental health problems may initially be expressed as physical complaints within a medical setting.”

To tackle such an important problem, SPARK, supported by Al Fakhoora, has initiated psychosocial support trainings for students in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq/KR-I and Jordan. The trainings provide students with self-help techniques themselves and their communities so that they can recognise the symptoms of psychological trauma or mental health issues and know how to deal with them. In order for young people to be able to build social structures after an emergency or a critical event, addressing these issues is key.

In Beirut recently, 10 elected Student Representatives participated in a 3-day training with trauma psychologist, Amanda Aoun. “This is such an interesting topic. I would love to attend more classes and share it with my peers”, said Student Representative for Lebanese International University, Iman El Assali.

The training focused on distress prevention and suffering, better coping mechanisms, communications skills and pathways, mental health awareness and identification of troubled individuals.

Future trainings are upcoming in Turkey, Erbil and Jordan. On World Mental Health Day, raising awareness of the effects of trauma on displaced young people and tackling these issues head-on is more important than ever.

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