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“Together we’ll find a solution”

Zwei Menschen sitzen sich gegenüber, ihre Gesichter sind nicht zu sehen.
Listening, developing prospects and arranging help.

“Together we’ll find a solution”

The Iraqi-German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (GMAC) in Baghdad provides the best possible psychosocial counselling to help returnees. In an interview, health advisor Ali explains how that works. He sees it as extremely important that people feel comfortable with him.

Which psychosocial services are available in the centre and for whom?

Our services are intended for returnees from Germany and other EU countries. We offer these people an initial consultation, which we use to assess their situation. It forms the basis for referral to our partner organisations where they get further support. Our cooperation partners include psychologists and doctors, for example.

What worries and concerns do people have when they visit you?

The returnees that come to see me and my team are often traumatised. They are suffering from anxiety disorders or depression and have a fear of the future. These people are insecure because they don't have a job. They tell us that they spend the whole day at home. This can cause problems and disputes with their families. They just don't know what to do.

Can you describe a typical psychosocial counselling session at the centre?

The most important thing is to make a connection. The people who come to us should feel comfortable. I give them the opportunity to speak freely. They usually talk about their experiences and their current life situation. Then we work together to complete a questionnaire that deals with their mental health. My team and I use the results of this questionnaire and our conversation to decide on the person’s mental health status. In other words, we decide if they need further psychosocial support. If they do, then we consider which partner organisation is the best fit. Many people just want to talk and get rid of what's on their mind. What’s important is that our counselling is free of charge.

What is special about your psychosocial counselling?

Mental health is a stigmatised issue here in Iraq. So many people don’t dare to talk about their burdens. But with us they can speak freely. Because everything we discuss is strictly private and confidential. Nobody except me learns that they are in psychosocial counselling or treatment. We don’t send their names to our partner organisations. We assign a code number to those involved and only this code number is shared. This means that we can speak to our partner organisations about people, and find the best possible service for them, without their names being known.

How do you build trust and a connection with people?

Those involved often either have money problems or they live far away from Baghdad –so most counselling sessions take place online. It’s sometimes difficult to make an immediate connection via a screen. But even that usually works well in the end. Helping people well means we have to learn a lot about their background. I begin slowly and ask them what their life is like at the moment. I’m very open with them. I make it clear to them what we do here. Each case is different, every individual has a personal background, whether social or familial. After each counselling session, I decide what to do next. Whether the best approach for that individual is to start a training course or get a job. Or whether someone needs further medical assistance or psychotherapeutic treatment. We work together to find a solution.

As of: 08/2022

The language of this interview has been simplified. This makes sure that it’s easy for everyone interested to understand.

Mental health is a stigmatised issue in Iraq. But with us they can speak freely.

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