Larissa van Beek, coordinator of the ARQ Centre of Expertise for Migration
Larissa van Beek, coordinator of the ARQ Centre of Expertise for Migration

Mind-Spring training for Ukrainians in the Netherlands

Interview with Mind-Spring coordinator Larissa van Beek

Larissa van Beek works at ARQ Centre of Expertise for Migration and coordinates Mind-Spring for Ukrainians in the Netherlands, among other things. Mind-Spring is psycho-education for and by refugees. At ARQ refugees are trained to provide subsequent refugees with psycho-education in their own language.

“Asylum seekers are usually accommodated at COA reception locations, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers in the Netherlands. Ukrainians have a special status. Dutch municipalities opened shelters for them and many private individuals accommodated people at home. Ukrainians ended up with people who had never worked with refugees: municipal officials, citizens, GPs, employers. At ARQ, we wondered whether there would be enough attention to their mental health.”


Stress and grief

“The Mind-Spring training developed for previous groups of refugees could also help Ukrainians cope with stress and grief. Mind-Spring is psycho-education taught in your own language. There are two trainers. One speaks the same language and previously fled to the Netherlands. This is an experience expert, who can also share personal tips. The other is a professional from the regional mental health services. They can recognise when someone’s symptoms are more serious than ‘a normal reaction to an abnormal situation’ and – if necessary – refer them to a practitioner.”

Refugee Olena Korolova, participant Mind-Spring psycho-education
Refugee Olena Korolova, participant Mind-Spring psycho-education

Ukrainian refugees become trainers

“On behalf of ARQ, I started looking for money to train 20 Ukrainian refugees to become Mind-Spring trainers. By autumn, that budget was there. ARQ held a rigorous selection. The future trainers had to stand firmly on their own feet. Their prior education was less important than their resilience. They also had to have experience working with groups. Two training groups were formed with very enthusiastic, committed and skilled participants. In November 2022 and early 2023, they were trained in giving Mind-Spring training to adult Ukrainian refugees. Recently, 10 of them have also been trained in giving Mind-Spring to children, teenagers and to their parents in parenting support.

The first group of Ukrainian participants in Dordrecht has now completed the training. What was striking was not so much the contrasts between Ukrainian and Russian speakers that we expected. What was more difficult was the large differences between the higher and lower educated, between city dwellers and rural people. The evaluation at the end showed that the participants felt better after the training than before.”

Larissa van Beek during ARQ symposium 'Resilient status holders, condition for successful integration'
Larissa van Beek at the ARQ symposium 'Resilient status holders, condition for successful integration'

"Refugees often avoid care out of fear of costs or shame. They usually aren’t quick to ask for help with psychological problems."

Municipalities can get in touch

“In the Netherlands, each municipality arranges the reception of Ukrainians itself. Some municipalities pay more attention to the mental health of status holders and refugees than others. Refugees run a high risk of developing psychological problems, especially upon arrival in their host country. Timely identification and referral is important to prevent psychological problems from developing or worsening. Refugees often avoid care out of fear of costs or shame. With psychological problems, they usually aren’t quick to ask for help. We also see this in Ukrainian refugees.

We know that by offering a light intervention such as Mind-Spring in a timely manner, we can prevent problems from increasing. Participants learn to cope better with stress and grief by being able to talk openly about what they are struggling with as a refugee. During Mind-Spring, you can also identify who needs more help. We can help these people to find their way in mental healthcare in the Netherlands.”


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In addition to the activities in the Netherlands, ARQ also provides psychosocial care in Ukraine as a guest partner of the Dutch foundation Giro555.