With the Syrian civil war leaving millions out of shelter, food and water, psychological first aid is becoming as important as regular first aid. Many refugees are battling very intense Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other psychiatric illnesses, and their mental health is as important as their basic needs.
Refugees Are Plagued by Flashbacks and Panic Attacks
A large number of refugees have experienced sleeplessness and emotional vulnerability. It makes it harder for them to reintegrate fully into society, regardless of where they are. This is where psychological first aid becomes increasingly important. European governments are encouraging mainstream therapies for people with poor mental health. These therapies are to be conducted for returning soldiers and accident survivors, but this won’t be effective for refugees.
Psychological First Aid: Narrative Exposure Therapy and Intercultural Psychotherapy
In order to cater to the millions fleeing the threat of terrorism in the Middle East, some doctors and psychotherapists are drawing alternatives to improve their mental health. This entails letting the survivors become comfortable with their settings and to trust their surroundings. Only then can they talk honestly about their trauma.
Narrative Exposure Therapy is about documenting the trauma in detail. Patients are encouraged to comfortably discuss their past in as much detail as possible, and this method has been proven to be effective. This therapy lasts six sessions, since time is of the essence for refugees. A trial that took 43 refugees from Sudan proved that NET can be very effective, as by the end of the study only 29% of them met the diagnosis for PTSD. Emotional exposure turns out to be the reversing factor, and by retelling their stories in chronological order it helps patients gauge time and context of their trauma.
Psychological First Aid: Intercultural Psychotherapy
Other specialists prefer a different approach in the form of intercultural psychotherapy. The treatment was designed for refugees, and it helps them build psychological strength. These sessions center around discussing trauma, going through psychoanalytic treatment, and providing cultural support. This comes in the form of advice about education, housing and employment, helping the refugees adjust to their new setting.
Both of these therapies have proven to be effective. The key is to bring in all who need mental health nursing to these centers, or to have them become a kind of psychological first aid on the site of these horrible atrocities.