• Rafal Abdulateef | Senior Public Information Assistant

Feelings of anxiety and isolation are not uncommon among people who go through displacement. The trauma of leaving home and community, the sustained pressure of being on the move and the stress of rebuilding after returning home can have serious negative impacts on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.

Duaa, 48, was displaced to Baghdad Governorate in 2014 alongside her husband and seven children. They returned home to Fallujah, Anbar Governorate, in 2017 after the city was reclaimed by Iraqi forces. Four years later, Duaa was left a widow by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When my husband died, raising my children became very hard, as [most] were in their teenage years, which is a difficult age to deal with. I really tried to raise them properly," she said, but as a single mom trying to get the family back on its feet after several shared traumatic experiences, this was not easy. Duaa and her children found themselves feeling isolated and unhappy.

Marwa, Duaa’s daughter, was facing a particularly hard time, having gone through a separation from her husband of five years and dealing with the resulting personal and social repercussions. Marwa heard through some neighbours about an IOM project offering sewing courses alongside mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) sessions – under the MHPSS and Livelihoods Integration programme (MLI). She joined, hoping to learn something new and maybe end her feelings of isolation.

"I participated in the sewing course – I had no ideas about it ahead of time or any prior information,” said Marwa, who ended up gaining marketable skills through the livelihood activity and integrated psychosocial support. “I observed [those who soon became] my friends and how they sewed, and I learned a lot from them. They passed on their ideas, they guided me, and then I relied on myself. When I made a mistake, I started again and sewed again."

She continued, "At the beginning, I used to avoid talking to people. I did not socialize, and I did not like to mix, but all that changed. I began to forget the past and to mix and get along with them.”

Seeking a change of atmosphere and a break from the pressures of life, Duaa joined her daughter in the MLI programming.

The two would go to psychosocial support sessions together and share freely with their peers. They attended psychosocial support sessions and learned healthy mechanisms for interacting with their children and discovered positive ways to deal with stress.

"My daughter's psychological state was not good because of the separation (after a marriage that lasted five years). There has been good progress in her condition," Duaa expressed with love. “Her condition is better now, and she spends her time with her children.”

No longer isolated from her community and now equipped with new tools both mental and practical, Duaa too is feeling more able to confront the difficulties of rebuilding life after returning home from displacement.

IOM’s MLI programming works to build the social, soft and other life skills of livelihood participants, providing them with important coping mechanisms to address work-related psychosocial stressors through integrated MHPSS support. The skills gained and developed through the MHPSS sessions help participants address challenges at work and in other life situations in the short and long term.

This assistance was made possible with support from the Government of Germany, through KfW.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities