Psychosocial and Trauma Response in Serbia

Project Duration: 
2004 - 2006
Italian Government

This project, funded by the Italian Government (EUR 1 million) was intended to address some of the difficulties in Serbia that have arisen from the protracted and divisive wars and their consequences. These devastating consequences include a large number of refugees and internally displaced families, poverty, unemployment, difficulties due to the sharp transition and reform processes, growth of number of people with actual psychiatric disorders (depression disorders, psychosomatic disorders, abuse of psychoactive substances), family violence and the like.

Moreover, another important corresponding consequence is that a large number of mental health professionals in Serbia have been suffering from various degrees of the burn-out syndrome due to their unrelenting and intense involvement with the complexity of difficulties, their long isolation from their international colleagues and their own personal exposure to these conflicts and their aftermath. This was a particularly critical period because the acute phase of post-conflict situation came to an end and people’s expectations for drastic improvements at all levels are in sharp contrast with the actual reality. In addition, during that period, international aid and assistance to the vulnerable population has been reduced substantially and the resulting gaping lack of appropriate support and resources is particularly felt by these professionals.

A programme consisted of three components:

  1. Training of Trainers for 25 national experts – Psychosocial approach in work with migrants - Course aimed at creation of a professional Trainers’ network throughout the country.
  2. Psychosocial and cultural integration activities for refugees, IDPs and local population. Psychosocial community based activities and training events were developed, aiming at the psychosocial wellness of the most vulnerable groups. Pilot projects were established in chosen regions (Vojvodina (Novi Sad) and South Serbia (Nis) where the long standing presence of refugees and IDPs have jeopardized the integration process in the region - but on the other side, have created a base of common problems to be addressed with common activities and possible responses.
  3. Training in psychosocial counselling for 40 local professionals to deal with psychosocial problems related to post-war trauma, forced migration and displacement. Extra-curricular training courses targeting local professionals (doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, social workers, teachers, artists etc.) were developed and accredited by the Serbian Institute of Mental Health and University of Essex.  The courses were based on a participatory methodology with the practical fieldwork, which aimed at identifying immediate needs of communities and individuals.

Project Status: 
PTF Workshop