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DRC's Psychosocial Support: a Lifeline for Earthquake Survivors

After the earthquake, mental health is becoming more important than ever.

Posted on 26 Jul 2023

“The earthquake has left another scar in my heart,” said Salwa, who came to Türkiye in 2016. “It has destroyed everything we have built in the past seven years. My husband lost his shop after he invested all we had. We ended up on the streets for days because our house was gone.”

Located at the Turkish-Syrian border, the town of Reyhanlı has become a hub for humanitarian response following the February 6 earthquake. It is a safe haven for many people in Hatay Province after the earthquake. Many people from refugee and host communities lost their homes, family members and sources of income because of the disaster.

After moving to Reyhanlı, Salwa’s husband started working as a daily worker, which does not provide a stable source of income. Her mind is not at peace. The hardest thing for her was the fact that people do not understand her pain. She would cry constantly. “I did not have anyone to talk to.”

Psychosocial support sessions in DRC. Hatay, Turkey. July 2023 / Photo by: DRC

Psychosocial support sessions in DRC. Hatay, Turkey. July 2023 / Photo by: DRC

To support families in Reyhanlı, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is conducting Psychosocial Support (PSS) activities , bringing together refugees and host community members in a safe environment.  Female-headed households always faced additional difficulties to meet their families’ basic needs.

This problem has been further exacerbated as many of these households had no financial savings to support them after the earthquake. It is even worse for recently widowed women since they have to navigate a system they are unfamiliar with to support themselves and their families.

Funded by the European Union through its Humanitarian Aid Operations, DRC holds series of sessions to help women identify the sources of stress and their coping mechanisms, encouraging them to express their feelings and providing a safe space where they can receive and provide support.

Fourteen Syrian women from different backgrounds attended the first sessions. Each one of them had a story to tell.

“As women, we really needed a place where we could speak freely. We felt we had people who could understand us. Because of that, we were finally able to respond to our feelings and surroundings.”

/  Salwa, a Syrian living in Turkey

Sena lost her husband in the disaster. She is now alone in Reyhanlı with her four children.

“My husband was everything to me,” she said.

“After he passed away, I stayed in bed all the time and cared about nothing because I did not want to live anymore.”

Along with other women, she participated in activities including drawing and discussions. It helped them identify their sources of stress, which opened the door to sharing their feelings and finding out they had a lot of things in common despite their differences.

The fact that they were all victims of the disaster made them grieve together, then take each other in. They felt safe at last.

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Mirvet is DRC’s psychosocial support Assistant. She used to live in Antakya with her two children before the earthquake, then she moved to Reyhanlı to assist women in need after her home was destroyed.

“It was not easy to give those sessions since I was also affected by the earthquake,” she said.

“But I knew that women refugees are currently under more pressure after the earthquake. There is so much focus on the destroyed infrastructure, but we should not forget that people’s mental health has also been badly impacted.”

The women have also become bolder and more able to raise topics without the fear of being judged. 

“The sessions made me realise that I should be independent and have my own space,” Sena said.  

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