Mental health in a migration context in times of social isolation: a relaxation tool in different languages

As part of the “My Life Behind the Masks” project, GAMS Belgium in partnership with Care4Refugees translated a series of online breathing and relaxation exercises. In this period of social isolation, this free and accessible tool contributes to the general well-being of any person who wishes to do so, migrant or not.

Mental health and migration: Psychological support impacted by the pandemic

COVID-19 and the containment affect everyone, but migrants may be more vulnerable and face barriers. The health crisis leads to questions and stress that are more difficult to manage in situations of migration, living in reception centers for applicants for international protection, living in precarious residence situation (“undocumented migrants”) in jobs, …

GAMS Belgium is concerned about the mental health of its target group and migrants in general. The continuation and working method of the psychological care that is usually provided by appointment in our buildings is affected.

A free and accessible relaxation tool

The first relaxation series has been uploaded by Care4Refugees:

 French
 English
 Dutch
 German
 Arabic
 Portuguese
 Russian
 Serbo-Croatian
 Pashtu

Translated into the languages of our recipients

On the initiative of GAMS Belgium in collaboration with Care4Refugees and thanks to the support of Alter Egales (Wallonia-Brussels Federation) and the King Baudouin Foundation, some exercises were translated in writing and recorded in languages adapted to our target group from East and West Africa:

 Somali
 Tigrinya
 Amharic
 Pillar/Pillar (Guinea)
 Malinké
 Soussou

This tool can be used directly by the women themselves, or by professionals during sessions. Charlotte Royen, psychologist at the GAMS Belgium office in Liège, explains:

“Relaxation sessions are used on a case-by-case basis. All my patients have experienced a trauma and therefore have symptoms of stress in their daily lives. Stress causes poor, superficial and irregular breathing. Unlike abdominal breathing when relaxed, this breathing, high in the chest, leads to chronic tension. When we become aware of our breath in order to make it more peaceful, we release a lot of tension and emotional trauma. We become more aware of our internal states and have more control over them. Through relaxation exercises, by voluntarily changing the rhythm, mode and depth of our breathing, we change the messages sent to the brain. These exercises can gradually bring about a control of our emotions and certain physiological reactions linked to stress. Indeed, voluntary abdominal breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which favors relaxation and regeneration.”

N.B.: This project is still underway. Some tools are therefore not yet available in all languages.

Consult the Care4Refugees website