Healing the psychological scars of the Beirut port explosion one call at a time

Publication date: Dec 16, 2020
The call centre set up by TSF and Live Love Lebanon

Over 4 months have passed since the explosion at the port of Beirut; this accident doesn’t make the headlines anymore, but the scars remain. The more visible ones, on the buildings, streets, cars, monuments partially damaged or completely destroyed by the blast, and the invisible ones, in Beirut people’s hearts. A new psychological unit managed by the local organization BeBrave has been added to the call center set up by TSF in collaboration with Live Love Lebanon, to help the population of Beirut get through this difficult moment, not only by reconstructing their material life, but also their emotional one.

After big catastrophes, lots of people tend to disregard their psychological needs as secondary and less important, and many feel that their feelings are invalid considering that they survived the catastrophe and ‘there are many people that have it worse’. But the truth of the matter is, everyone’s feelings are valid, and even people who were not affected directly by the explosion have been left traumatized by it, and everyone deserves to be cared for and listened to, and this is where our work comes in play,” one of BeBrave's volunteers tells us.

BeBrave’s teams are using TSF’s call center system to respond to this less visible but paramount need. They provide Psychological First Aid and Mental Health Psychosocial Support, by offering the victims a safe space to express their feelings. They also link beneficiaries to community NGOs and psychologists or psychiatrists when needed. “At the beginning it was challenging for us to be contacting victims from our personal phone numbers, but now it is much easier and more efficient” they explain. Thanks to TSF’s and Live Love Lebanon’s call centre, the volunteers’ work is safer and more effective: “The system is well adapted in the sense that it provides the required anonymity to the volunteers. It improved our assistance since it made things more professional. This not only makes us feel safe, but also ensures our privacy.”

These calls are really important for the victims of the explosion and for the people of Beirut in general, because the accident at the port added up to an already challenging social and economic situation the country is going through. Thanks to this psychological assistance they can open up and express their feelings in a safe way, with professionals that can help them overcome such a challenging moment. As explained by one of the volunteers: “Being told by a beneficiary that they have not been able to open up about their feelings even to their close family members, but them feeling free to open up to me and thanking me for that was extremely powerful, and showed me the importance of judgement-free active listening and compassion.”

In addition, these calls are not only a powerful psychological assistance for the beneficiaries, but also for the volunteers themselves: “I was able to help others when I felt helpless myself after the explosion, which made me gain back confidence and hope in my society and the young people around me,” explains one volunteer, and another goes on to say “what I like most, is that with all the challenges going on in Lebanon at the moment, I am able to reach someone in distress and help change their day for the better. Through one phone call I am able to connect with another person who might have lost all hope and just need someone to talk to.”

Giving the population of Beirut a voice, giving them the possibility to be listened to, helping them to heal the scars caused by the accident, the material ones as well as the psychological ones; this is what TSF is doing today in Beirut in collaboration with its local partners. And this is what TSF will continue doing in the coming months, to ensure the people affected by this tragedy have the means to rebuild their lives.

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