Summer 2015 saw massive movements of refugees through Europe. Many people from North African and Near East states migrated to Western Europe. Such an exodus from their homelands engenders a feeling of having lost one’s roots. Before embarking on their journeys these people have often also experienced war and terror. And in the places where they find a temporary home, they may not be welcome. On their way to Western Europe they often experience things which would bring anyone to the limits of their personal endurance.
As a result of these experiences, some people may suffer from an upset of the delicate psychological balance of the mind. The local healthcare systems cannot always manage to respond appropriately to the required questions in emergency situations. Inadequate care of health problems is the result. It is difficult to make yourself understood in the healthcare system. Together with the BKK umbrella organisation and the regional BKK association for the North Western area, the German Federal Association of Relatives of the Mentally Ill (BApK) has set up the easy-access refugee psychological helpline “SeeleFon für Flüchtlinge”.
The helpline can be reached every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 to 12 am and 2 to 3 pm via the number 0228 71002425.
This is a telephone advice service where people who have fled other countries or have any other background of migration can get help when they feel psychologically unbalanced. The BApK and the BKK umbrella organisation are well prepared to meet the needs of those who may potentially seek help. Because a BApK employee who picks up the phone at the refugee psychological helpline can offer support to callers in Arabic, English and French.
As a first step, BApK employees sought out for possibilities to provide culture-sensitive care in psychiatric clinics across the whole country. As a second step self-help options were established for people with experience of migration. The easy accessibility of the helpline appears essential.
It is not only difficult for refugees to seek professional help from an office specialist or a psychiatric hospital because there is also great stigma attached to mental illness in other cultural circles. There is also the fact that these people are ill-equipped to navigate the German healthcare system. For this reason the BApK publishes advisory booklets explaining in simple terms the psychiatric healthcare system, psychological illnesses and legal issues on all aspects of psychiatry. These advisory booklets can be downloaded from the BApK website by anyone affected by these issues, their relatives and refugee volunteer workers.