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An optional project seminar on the subject of “Counselling and Psychological Support for Refugees” was offered to students in the 2015/16 winter semester in a joint extracurricular study project between the University of Hamburg (Prof. Yvonne Nestoriuc) and the study group for psychosocial migration research at the Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Medical Psychology at the Hamburg Eppendorf University Hospital (Dr. Mike Mösko). This continued into the 2016 summer semester.
The goal of the seminar was for students to learn scientific methods for developing and assessing materials which are intended to benefit refugees who are suffering from mental health problems. As regards content, the intention was to compile educational materials for refugees that made good use of information about mental health problems and how to treat them. The emphasis was on psycho-education and encouraging self-help when dealing with distressing and traumatic situations in the context of flight and migration and with life in the host country.
In a process of self-directed, problem-focussed learning, materials based on scientific research were developed for psycho-education and self-help for refugees in an evaluation of best-practice approaches and results of current research. Students then compiled evidence-based information and self-help materials for refugees with mental health issues in five study groups (provision of care, patient information, evaluation, translation, dissemination).
The German text was drafted in various stages with assistance from external experts. The extensive website texts were translated on a pro bono basis into six other languages, in addition to the German text.
Furthermore some refugees were themselves actively involved in designing the website. 14 refugees from five different countries (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea) attended a block of seminars in the spring of 2016. They worked through the (English) draft of the texts together with students and gave valuable feedback and suggestions for improvements.
It is thanks to the students’ commitment that the project has developed such an incredibly positive momentum. Apart from work by the students, the project has been supported by a number of people and businesses on a pro bono basis. For example, the PR agency SinnerSchrader (www.sinnerschrader.com) designed and developed a multilingual website without charge. A professional photographer, Sabine Skiba (www.sabine-skiba.com), took photos of people in Hamburg who come from immigrant families. Ina Park, a professional film maker (www.die-wunderkinder.de), created a short film for the website on a pro bono basis.
The not-for-profit Hamburg association “Seelische Gesundheit • Migration und Flucht e. V.” (www.segemi.org) supported the project from the very start with expert advice and will take on hosting of the website from the technical aspect and in terms of contents once the seminar has finished.