1. I SHOULD SHOW RESPECT
We should meet the other person treating them with dignity. WE SHOULD SHOW RESPECT
2. I SHOULD SIMPLY BE THERE FOR THE OTHER PERSON
The first stage of helping is just being present and taming emotions, sometimes helping to name them. A traumatised person is often cut off from their emotions, let alone other resources. Such people may lose contact with their surroundings, crying all the time.
3. I MUST ACCEPT EMOTIONS
If I encounter a behaviour or emotion that I don't understand: • I should draw the person's attention to the sensations in the body: for example I may ask if they are comfortable and warm?
- I should not ask about what happened. If the person is absent-minded or gets into panic:
- I try to focus their attention on the present, saying: "you are safe", "you can be calm", "you can relax", it is safe here", "you are not in danger “. If the person is crying:
- I should be 'present' and 'available'. We do not need to be afraid of feelings. It is a natural reaction of relaxation, bringing relief. • I should not impose my presence or cross boundaries (before touching and hugging anyone, I must ask for permission first). If somebody is very closed and difficult to communicate with:
- they need a lot of patience, gentleness and time.
- it is important to direct their thoughts to the "here and now"
- we may suggest some pleasant activities
4. I SHOULD TRY TO IDENTIFY 'RESOURCES’ or ways of relieving stress
Most of us have the resources to cope with extremely difficult situations. Let's try to answer the question if we can recognize what could help our subjects.
The most common resources are:
- religion and spirituality;
- relationships and conversations;
- sports and physical activities;
- artistic and creative activities;
- science fiction movies and books;
We should try to help the subject to use his/her own “resources” of coping with stress: spiritual resources - by praying together; relationships: by talking; physical activity: by going for a walk together, etc.
- THINGS I SHOULD NEVER DO
I should not ask questions about the traumatic experience; I should not do everything for the other person, I should not make every effort to help (I always ask before I give support); I should not judge, interrupt or criticise any behaviours that are difficult to understand; I should not advise or comfort at a push; I should not hug or touch anyone without consent (such behaviour may release aggression); I should not ask questions; I should not seek resources at a push; I should not plan for someone else; I should not deny realities and feelings; if a refugee wants to talk about war, I should not avoid the topic of war, loss.
- THINGS I SHOULD TRY TO DO
I should show friendship, empathy and understanding, but without imposing myself; I should create a friendly atmosphere, for example by saying "are you safe", "would you like some tea?", "how about something warm to eat", "do you need a blanket?"; I am there for another person, even if it is just a silent presence - this is important; I show understanding and listen; I allow the other person to express what they feel, without interruption or unnecessary comments; I should support wisely, giving control as often as possible (I let the other person decide if they need support and what kind); I give a sense of security; I make sure, if possible, that the refugee has his/her clothes and belongings with them - they are a bridge with the world from which he/she was taken; I try to divert the conversation towards the good moments in life; I try to encourage deep breathing.
For those who want to help:
- we should remember about secondary traumatisation, so when helping others we should also take care of ourselves, of our own regeneration and time in private.
Written by: Agata Wiktoria Śmierzyńska, kierownik projektu „LIFELINE” Project Manager, Monika Szary, Psychotraumatologist, Aneta Lis-Kotowska, Psychotraumatologist