Siba Bizri has worked for Concern in Lebanon for six years. She began working in Child Protection, moving over to Psychosocial support case management two years ago. Prior to the explosion in Beirut, the Psychosocial support team in Lebanon were already responding to two emergencies: the Syrian crisis and spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19). During the Covid-19 lockdown, the team had to work remotely. A 24-hour hotline was set up, with many women and children requesting protection services and help securing basics such as food, shelter, and medicine. They also have a helpline for mental health assistance and Gender Based Violence (GBV) through which we can refer anyone that needs more than basic counselling onto specialised services. Siba explains that women suffering from IPV (intimate partner violence) mostly use this, cases of which had increased during lockdown: “It was very busy in those times.” The UN Women has described the worldwide increase in domestic abuse as a "shadow pandemic" alongside Covid-19. It is believed that globally cases have increased by 20% during the lockdown, as many people are trapped at home with their abuser [BBC].
Psychological first aid (PFA) is one form of basic support Psychosocial support (not a clinical or psychiatric intervention) which consists of being attentive to individuals who may need support, listening and comforting them, helping them understand their concerns, addressing their basic needs and linking them to information or services. Since the explosion in Beirut, Siba reveals that Concern are now getting many requests for mental health services. Through PFA we are able to not only address people’s basic needs through distributing dignity kits, hygiene kits and food, and connecting them to other services such as our Shelter department, we are also connecting individuals with organisations specialising in mental health who can offer psychotherapy or more specialised care.
Siba cannot emphasise enough the importance of psychosocial support.
Psychosocial support is extremely important, especially as part of psychological first aid during an emergency. It is the first step to stop difficulties occurring after a crisis: “It is important to help people who are searching for care and support in a healthy way.”