Psychological support

Ari Räsänen
Image: Ari Räsänen
Psychological support & Our work throughout the world
The Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support; PS Centre

The Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support was founded in 1993. It helps and supports the national Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations globally. The Finnish Red Cross participates in supporting the operations of this centre located in Copenhagen.

The primary task of the Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support is to promote the ability of the national organisations to meet the needs of those in the most vulnerable positions by

  • promoting the importance of psychosocial support in disaster relief and development cooperation.
  • producing new information and materials on psychosocial support.
  • focusing on the planning of programme work on psychosocial support.
  • planning and developing training systems on psychosocial support.

The reference centre works in cooperation with various research institutions, UN organisations and NGO's.

Psychological support (psychosocial support) has gained an important position next to traditional humanitarian aid. In addition to providing shelter, nutrition, water and basic healthcare, the psychological recovery from crises and disasters is emphasised more and more.

Each one of us reacts to shocking events. Psychological support has become an important part of Red Cross' disaster relief work. Psychological support helps people and communities after crises in order to improve recovery from mentally disturbing events. An active survivor gets on better with life than a passive victim.

Psychological support given at an early stage:

  • Helps to diminish later psychosocial effects of a crisis.
  • Supports recovery and return to normal life.
  • Helps to identify needs resulting from the crisis both at the community and an individual level.

Disasters and conflicts often cause substantial material damage. A destroyed home is a horrible concrete loss. Mental wounds are often kept more secretly and need more time to recuperate from. A new home is built on the foundations, but the scars of the destruction remain for a long time.

The role of the community is always important when dealing with feelings of loss and powerlessness caused by a catastrophe. The earlier psychological support is included in disaster relief work, the better the chances the community has to deal with anxiety, suffering and sorrow, and, to ultimately, recuperate.

Psychological support is also a central part of Red Cross’ development cooperation. In, HIV/AIDS programmes, for example, or in child and youth work the focus is on developing mental strength, charting the dreams for future and preventing loneliness and alienation.

Support groups and action days guided by trained volunteers offer valuable help for people dealing with difficult issues. The projects integrate the self image of a traumatised person and support people in handling the crisis and prevent them from being left alone with their wounds. Information campaigns help reduce prejudice against the mental affects of the crisis in the community. Many of those who participated have been able to grasp the uniqueness of life again and found a new direction for their lives.