Who Cares for the Carers?

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“When my work is done, and I return home, I cannot get over what I witnessed during the day. I keep remembering what the beneficiaries have been through, the situation they live in and they daily stress the are going through and this situation really affects me psychologically,” explains Inci Nuraydin, a member of the IOM Turkey Emergency Case Management Team.

One in five people in the workplace experience a mental health condition, according to the World Federation of Mental Health, a body that works closely with the World Health Organization (WHO). While many employers and organizations are developing policies to support a healthy workforce, there often is no shared vision for mental health in the workplace.

Many humanitarian workers are subject to distress and anguish caused by work. With a mandate of helping others, aid workers tend to focus on the work they do and not on themselves. Mental health problems and illnesses affect mood, thinking and behaviour and these usually have a negative impact on the person’s ability to function in both their personal and professional life. It is very important for humanitarian workers to understand more about what stress is, what triggers stress for them and how to respond to stress positively.

Although mental illness is experienced by a significant proportion of the workforce, it is still seen as a private issue not be discussed among colleagues. The World Federation of Mental Health believes that more than 70 per cent of people with mental illness actively conceal their condition from others, often because they fear discrimination when looking for or keeping a job.

IOM Turkey has been supporting its Protection staff in the field with self-care sessions to help overcome the daily stressors of working to assist affected populations. These individuals are often exposed to cases that take an emotional toll on them. Yasin Duman, a psychologist hired by IOM Turkey to provide the sessions believes that supervisors should support their employees to be as open as possible to report their problems and to be ready and reachable whenever the employee needs support.

Khalil Omarshah, head of the Protection and Resilience Unit under the IOM Turkey Refugee Response program in Gaziantep believes that having in place strong self- and staff-care options for aid workers is vital. “Using the tools and methods provided in these sessions I have seen a vast difference in how colleagues approach incidents that can be stressful. Communication among team members and conflict resolution protocols have also enabled a more cohesive working environment where the colleagues support each other rather than reacting negatively. These sessions have significantly improved quality of work responding to one of the defining humanitarian crises of contemporary times,” Omarshah added.

“Before I started receiving the psychosocial support, I used to feel mentally exhausted all the time. After the support sessions, I am now able to manage both my stress levels and my interpersonal communication skills”, highlights Nuraydin, who has been taking part in the self-care sessions that IOM Turkey is providing.

For more self-care and mental health resources, visit the IOM Staff Welfare page  https://www.iom.int/my-wellbeing where you can find materials on how to cope with stress, fatigue and well-being amongst other things.