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Displacement, Trauma and First Aid for Those Affected by War

Spending nights in air raid shelters, families and couples being forced to separate, fearing for one’s own life and the lives of loved ones. People may see or experience terrible events before, while and after seeking refuge from a war zone. Even when they manage to find protection and safety in another country, many of those displaced encounter new challenges that threaten their very existence. All these experiences can place severe psychological stress on those concerned.

So what exactly can uprooted individuals and families do now to boost their mental health, and where can they find professional psychological support? To answer these questions, our psychologists and psychotherapists at HelloBetter have produced a brochure containing psychotherapy-based exercises and useful background information for those affected.

War and displacement: mental health impacts

For many people affected by war and displacement, every aspect of normal life is turned upside down in the space of a few weeks: a peaceful homeland, a safe home, carefree gatherings with family and friends, a familiar daily routine.

Experiencing war, having to flee and fear for one’s own life: such experiences leave psychological scars on many of those concerned. Feelings such as fear, helplessness and despair can still be felt long after the events have passed, as can physical stress reactions.

In light of the circumstances, psychological and physical reactions are to be expected. To some degree, they can be regarded as signs that difficult experiences are being processed and self-healing processes are being activated. Stress responses can differ from person to person. For example, they may manifest in sleep problems, mood swings, nervousness or concentration problems. Throughout the day, thoughts often return to the distressing events of displacement, or physical symptoms such as nausea or headaches occur.

The impact a traumatic event has on someone depends, among other things, on the severity and duration of the event and the personal resources available to the individual concerned. As a rule, the longer a traumatic event lasts and the more helpless the affected person feels, the greater its impact. In the special case of fleeing a war zone, people may still be under a great deal of stress weeks after the initial experience of displacement. This makes it all the more important for those affected to recognise their own stress responses at an early stage and to acquire strategies for taking care of themselves in spite of all the upheaval.

What led to the initiative “Psychological first aid for those affected by war”?

Not every psychological crisis or traumatic experience has to be treated professionally; in some cases they can be managed alone or with support from friends and family. What is for certain: to strengthen mental health after war and displacement in the long term, it is vital to take care of one’s basic psychological needs.

To this end, people seeking refuge in Germany can receive psychological support from psychologists and psychotherapists. But there is currently still very little information on where they can find quick and simple psychological first aid that will help to activate self-healing processes.

As a company in the field of mental health, we at HelloBetter want to be instrumental in supporting those affected by war. That’s why our team of psychologists and psychotherapists has produced a brochure on first aid for people affected by war and displacement. In this brochure, we want to provide those impacted with strategies and methods for helping themselves during these difficult times, so that they can take care of themselves and their mental health.

What exactly is contained in the first aid brochure?

In the brochure, we describe the potential consequences of war and displacement and inform those affected about how to recognise the initial signs of psychological stress. We also explain how they can get immediate help during this particularly difficult time and how they can help themselves in the long term by meeting their basic psychological needs. Finally, we give an outline of additional support services they may find beneficial.

With this brochure, we want to make suggestions to those affected and provide content and exercises based on psychotherapeutic practice. It does not represent a complete catalogue of all the services available. However, we hope that this brochure will prove useful for initial orientation and assistance.

All vital information at a glance

The first aid brochure is available to download in the appropriate language here:

Brochures to download

In this way, we hope to make a small yet meaningful contribution and are offering the brochure free of charge to anyone who may find it useful. You are also welcome to forward the document to any interested organisation and, of course, to any individuals concerned. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to email us at

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Our articles are written by psychologists and reviewed by psychotherapists.