Belgian health care centres to offer psychosocial support to Ukrainian refugees

Belgian health care centres to offer psychosocial support to Ukrainian refugees
Ukrainian refugees at a Brussels registration centre in the early days of the Russian invasion.

Belgium's Centre for General Welfare (CAW) announced it will be offering psychosocial support to refugees from Ukraine to help cope with the consequences of the ongoing conflict with Russia.

The CAW, a first-line organisation that offers psychosocial support to people with increased vulnerability, stressed the importance of quick support in processing feelings after war violence.

"We know from experience that in case of mental unwellness, stress-related complaints, fear or coping with war violence, psychosocial assistance must be provided quickly. This is an important factor in preventing later problems," Bart Claes, general director of CAW Group, said in a statement.

The already existing feelings of fear, anxiety and uncertainty that many refugees feel are further exacerbated by the fact they arrive in an unknown country, where they have to figure out the logistics of living there while dealing with their trauma, which is why the CAW is offering its services.

As part of the psychosocial support it can offer, the CAW will ask refugees what they need, and assist them in finding the right information and services, as well as providing a listening ear and reassurance. It has a low-threshold offer on mental unwellness, meaning it works to detect problems early on and prevent them from getting worse.

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"For these refugees, it is first important that they feel safe and that their first needs for housing are met. Only then can they continue to process what has happened. For some people, coping goes without any extra support. For others, this support is needed," Claes said.

Help for hosts

The CAW said it will also provide help and advise to people or families who take in Ukrainians, stating they can also contact the centres with their questions.

"Host families play an important role in the reception and in providing structure and restoring trust again, but often have a lot of questions about how they can help their guests find their way in our society or how they can support them in dealing with traumatic memories," Claes said.

"They too are confronted with these psychosocial needs and problems of refugees. Or they themselves experience that it weighs on their mental well-being."

Those who have questions or need help can call the free number 0800 13 500. A counsellor will be there every working day between 09:00 and 17:00.

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