Red Cross to offer lessons on responding to mental health issues


Flanders’ Zorgnet agency and the Red Cross will provide lessons to citizens on how to help friends, family, neighbours or colleagues deal with psychological crises

Don’t say ‘chin up’

Flanders’ Red Cross and the government’s Zorgnet agency are collaborating to offer lessons on how to respond to mental health problems. The lessons are open to anyone who wants to follow them.

One person in four living in Flanders struggles with depression, anxiety or another mental health issue at some point in their lives. “Just talking about it is difficult enough,” say the organisations in a statement. “But people are sometimes unsure how to best respond to someone who is having a hard time. Unlike with a physical illness or injury, it’s not always clear how you can help someone with a psychological problem.”

The organisations note that responses like “It will all be OK” or “Chin up” are rarely helpful. The lessons will help people to engage in conversation and advise someone to seek psychological help, if needed.

Crucially, those who follow the lessons, which are in Dutch and take place over four evenings, will also be taught how to recognise if someone is in trouble. Because it remains a taboo to discuss psychological problems, most people are hesitant to start talking about it on their own.

Making a promise to support them in seeking professional help can really make a difference

“Simply being present, admitting that you don’t have any cookie-cutter solutions and making a promise to support them in seeking professional help – those things really make a difference,” according to the Red Cross.

The first series of lessons begin this October and are pilot projects to test the teaching methods and get feedback from the participants. They are restricted to the capital cities in every province.

For this first series, the Red Cross hopes to attract people who work with the public. That’s in the broadest sense, such as people who work at reception desks, as hairdressers, as coaches in sport clubs, teachers in adult education, volunteers in various organisations and any other kind of job or activity that brings them into contact with a lot of people.

Once the first series is complete, the programme will be rolled out across many more municipalities in Flanders next spring.

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