A project in Germany allows refugees who know the mother tongue of asylum seekers and have experienced their situation first-hand, to offer much-needed psychological support
Refugees in Germany are being trained as mental health counsellors to offer psychological support – from a listening ear to sharing coping skills – to asylum seekers with similar backgrounds.
A pilot project was launched by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) at St. Josef hospital in the city of Schweinfurt, Bavaria, in March 2017 after the charity noticed a stark lack of mental health support for asylum seekers.
“Our impression was that the asylum seekers had huge mental health needs that no one cares about,” said project coordinator and clinical psychologist Henrike Zellmann. “That is why we wanted to start a pilot project like this.”
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Asylum seekers arriving in Schweinfurt, many of whom have experienced severe trauma, are offered counselling in their own language by trained lay counsellors who are also refugees. The counsellors are permanently employed at the hospital where their supervision and training is overseen by Zellmann, who also steps in when her professional help is needed. She hopes the project will be replicated in Germany and further afield too.
The talks with the counsellors here…
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