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PERSONAL REFLECTION
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 261-265

Suicide Prevention and Response Among Refugees: Personal Reflections on Self-Care for Frontline Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Workers


Senior Staff Counsellor, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence Address:
PhD Gail Theisen-Womersley
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 94 Rue du Montbrillant, Geneva, CH1202
Switzerland
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_3_21

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No matter how experienced we are as professionals, we need to recognise the emotional and physical toll of the work we do as mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) frontline workers. The reflections in this article on the nature of trauma − and of shame − are offered to explore just why working with refugee populations may be such an intense experience for frontline MHPSS workers. Trauma is contagious. Shame and guilt are contagious. Feelings of despair, of anger, of guilt and of confusion are contagious. Suicidality among refugees may be considered a dialogue often including MHPSS frontline workers. When exposed to such despair, even our physical bodies may carry some of the pain and suffering. When faced with suicidality in our work, an extreme manifestation of this, we cannot help but be affected. We are human.


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