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Untreated war trauma and the inability to find one’s place in society can, in some cases, contribute to extreme violence. To prevent this, it is important that frontline workers are aware of the impact trauma can have. As a trauma expert, Solentra therefore offers support to local boards.

People with a refugee background are more likely to struggle with trauma and other mental health problems than the average population. They also fall victim to stigmatisation and dehumanisation more often. All this makes them susceptible to exploitation by extremist recruiters or to individual radicalisation.

“For years, there has been a lack of appropriate care for certain young people with a migrant background,” says Michelle Warriner, senior clinical psychologist at Solentra. “If the uprooting migration process fails for various reasons, they become increasingly detached from our society. This makes them an easy prey to the call of extremism.”

If the uprooting migration process fails for various reasons, certain youngsters become increasingly detached from our society. This makes them an easy prey to the call of extremism.

Many front-line actors are insufficiently aware of the role mental health problems can play in violent radicalisation and extremism. Knowledge of transcultural and migration psychology is also often lacking when dealing with individuals with refugee or migration backgrounds. This can lead to front-line actors not intervening out of fear of reacting in a wrong way.

Understanding the vulnerabilities of this population can improve the prevention and control of radicalisation and violent extremism. This is why Solentra makes its knowledge of transcultural and migration psychology available to local governments. “Their expressions of trauma are often misunderstood, which is why we want to provide local governments with more insight,” said Geert Serneels, director of Solentra.

Awareness-raising and policy support

This is why Solentra is committed to raising awareness. We share our trauma expertise with local authorities and teach front-line actors how to recognise the signals. This enables them to intervene appropriately and better assess when to refer a client to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Solentra sensitises on three levels:

  • capacity building through our helpdesk, intervisions, supervisions and community-based consultations. We also organise an intensive individual coaching programme for 15 local governments to respond to concrete needs in the field.
  • education and training (online and on-site)
  • a hands-on digital coaching programme that we are co-creating with local governments for them to sustainably acquire the necessary expertise.

Solentra also provides policy support by contributing our expertise within consultative bodies. For instance, we ensure that the role of mental health is included in a multidisciplinary approach to violent radicalisation and extremism.

Within this project, Solentra is part of an expert pool of five organisations working on the prevention of violent radicalisation and extremism.