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Mental health care

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Coping with stress
Everyone who has lived through a crisis situation, like when you need to flee your country, will most probably experience extreme stress. Such stress usually causes unpleasant reactions.

It is normal to react when experiencing an abnormal situation. This is important to remember when you or your relatives experience stress reactions.

What are reactions to extreme stress?

  • sleeping problems
  • headache
  • muscle tensions and bodily pains
  • fast heart beat and nausea
  • feeling anxiety
  • having poor concentration
  • negative feelings such as guilt, sadness and anger
  • being disoriented
  • having intrusive memories
  • trying to avoid being reminded of the crisis situation

Some react by not feeling anything at all, by having difficulties in making decisions or by isolating themselves from others.


What can you do?
It is important to find ways of coping with the stress reactions. It may help to:

  • Remember that stress reactions are normal reactions to an abnormal situation
  • Allow yourself to feel sad and grieve
  • Maintain daily routines: get up in the morning, don't stay in bed
  • Take a walk every day even when the weather is not good
  • Eat healthy foods, get sleep and exercise if possible
  • Socialize with other people instead of withdrawing, maybe set up a walking group
  • Seek support and assistance, there are many refugees suffering from the same reactions
  • Accept assistance that is offered

Mental health care
The stress reactions described above may last several weeks. If the reactions persist and make it impossible to function normally over a long period of time, seek help. Contact a family doctor or go to the Asylum Seekers Health Centre (GC A) mentioned above. They can help you with mental health care.

How to support children with stress?

Children's reactions to stress are different from those of adults. Children's grieving periods are short; however a crisis event can have longer-lasting effects on children than on adults. Children are vulnerable to crisis and stress, and need care and support from adults around them.

Younger children may behave aggressively towards caregivers or other children, while at the same time cling to their caregivers and show signs of separation anxiety.  There may be changes in behaviour, e.g. regression to the behaviour of younger children such as bedwetting, thumb sucking, or not being able to sleep alone. This shows loss of trust. In such situations, stable and secure relationships are very important resources.

Older children may display stress symptoms such as avoiding friends and adults and appearing moody. Some establish a sense of control by becoming perfectionists, while others display a decline in performance at school and otherwise. Adolescents may behave similar to adults, for example by isolating themselves or becoming irritable or aggressive.

It is important to remember that children's stress reactions are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Explain this to children when they do not understand their own reactions or find it hard to deal with them.

Children are best supported by keeping up daily routines, going to school if possible, or participating in other regular activities. Restore a certain kind of routine as soon as possible, such as maintaining eating and sleeping routines. Celebrate birthdays and special occasions if possible. If you have any questions, ask the doctors and nurses (GGD or Youth healthcare organisation) specialised in youth health.