Mobile psychologists to support flood victims until end of September

Mobile psychologists to support flood victims until end of September
Credit: Belga

A group of mobile teams of psychologists has been set up by a non-profit organisation to provide direct psychological support to those in the areas worst affected by July's deadly floods.

The "Un pass dans l'impasse" group has created four teams of psychologists to listen to the disaster victims and list their needs, give them advice and inform them of the psychological support system dedicated to them. The groups will operate until the end of September.

"The stories of the victims are often very upsetting. They have seen people washed away, bodies floating, houses collapsing... These traumas could lead to new tragedies if we don't act now," Océane Ghijselings, a psychologist from the association, said in a press release.

The organisation has been sending psychologists to the affected areas since Monday 26 July but has now extended the help they are offering until the end of September, "in view of the distress of the victims and the increasing number of requests."

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"The situation varies from town to town," said Gilles Vandeloise, another psychologist with the association.

"The victims are unable to understand what is happening and so the help we have given them has been very well received," he added.

A bad situation made worse

The psychologists will also focus on providing help and support to the self-employed in the region, many of whom were already suffering as a result of the coronavirus crisis, a situation that has been worsened by the floods.

"The affected self-employed are struggling to process what has happened. Already badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis, they are helpless", Vandeloise said.

"We meet them, listen to them and inform them of the help - including psychological help - that they can seek," he added.

In April this year, the federal government announced that all self-employed people in Belgium who are suffering as a result of the coronavirus crisis will be given eight free sessions with a psychologist: support which self-employed people, many of whom have now also suffered from the floods, can rely on.

As some self-employed are refusing direct psychological help, the mobile teams will visit some of the worst affected cities again to get in touch with all the self-employed.

"Once the shock is over, some of them might accept the help previously refused," the organisation said.

The mobile teams have already visited some of the worst affected municipalities, including Trooz, Wavre, Dinant, Pepinster and Halen in the province of Limburg, and on 1 September, the cycle of return visits will begin.

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