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“We are here to listen to people”

Emergency Rehabilitation
Syria

What is psychological first aid? How do you approach someone in distress? How do you help them? Habib (nickname), a member of HI’s psychosocial support team, shares his experience.

Ali underwent a surgery at the thigh level and has a state of fear and low self-esteem. A psychological support activity was implemented to reduce fear and enhance self-confidence.

Ali underwent a surgery at the thigh level and has a state of fear. A psychological support activity was implemented to reduce fear. | © S. Aliwa / HI

In the waiting room of one of the main health facilities in Idlib, a city in northwest Syria, a 31-year-old married man was waiting for his turn to see the orthopaedic doctor.

I noticed that this man was not well

I work here as a part of HI’s mobile psychosocial support team. I went up to the man and greeted him, introducing myself and the psychological aid service. I noticed that this man was not well. The earthquake had left him with bruising and he was showing signs of despondency and fatigue.

I asked him if he would like to come and sit with me in the hallway, away from all the people. He agreed. We sat facing each other and began to talk.
He started to tell me about what had happened to him and how he and his family had miraculously survived. How they had been able to get out at the last moment and how he had carried his child and protected him from the falling debris – and how they were all fine...

He experienced a life-threatening event

I could tell from his facial expressions and nonverbal signals – the tone of his voice, the way he was wringing his hands - that the man was distressed. He had experienced a life-threatening event.

I told him about places offering psychological support services in case he needed them in the future. Having discovered that he had lost his home, I also referred him to a supported reception centre and informed him about other services in the area that he might need in the days ahead.

The session lasted about 25 minutes. Just by talking about his traumatic experience, about how he had thought that he and his family were going to die, he felt better. He felt that someone had listened to him and understood him.

Date published: 03/04/23

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