Mental Health Services for Syrian Refugees

Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, nearly 13 million Syrians have been forced from their homes. Nearly three million fled to their northern neighbor, Turkey.

Running for their lives, many of these families carried only what they could grab within seconds. They left behind homes, possessions and even family members, arriving in a country whose language and systems were completely new to them. In this unfamiliar environment, they worked to secure adequate food, housing and basic health care. They struggled to enroll children in school and to find jobs. And they wrestled with the emotional scars of the battle they escaped.

In 2015, Relief International began providing mental health counseling for these refugees who may suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders and a host of psychological ailments that can range from moderate to severe.

With funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), Relief International established a community mental health center in the border city of Gaziantep, where we partner with the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM). Relief International offers psychotherapy, psychiatric and counseling services to Syrian refugees, including individual and group counseling sessions.

To date, RI staff has provided more than 300 group counseling sessions that have reached roughly 1,600 Syrian refugees. In addition, we have connected more than 765 people with the individual psychotherapy sessions that they need to process their trauma.

Recognizing the essential need for local participation, RI also established two mobile mental health units comprised of psychotherapists and clinical care social workers. These teams conduct outreach activities in refugee communities, performing patient assessments, developing short-term, home-based treatment plans, and making referrals when necessary.