Aram Hasan: a Dutch psychiatrist with lived experience from Syria

Voices from the field

Aram Hasan is a Dutch psychiatrist with lived experience from Syria. He studied medicine in Ukraine when, during a family visit, he was arrested by the Syrian police for his involvement in a Kurdish human rights organization. He came to the Netherlands as a refugee in 1999 and now helps people with similar backgrounds.

Dr Aram Hasan – Psychiatrist CoTeam:
We know that psychosocial problems are universal, but the approach must be different:
An approach based on the language and the culture.
If we don't understand the meaning of their words and their emotions and if we don't understand their culture, we cannot help them.

Our house was destroyed, we were mentally devastated.
My brain was numbed by the shock of what happened.
I suddenly lost my appetite and I stopped drinking too. I lost 20 kilos of weight.

I was angry all of the time...

screaming and shouting.

On-screen text: He now is both a psychiatrist and clinic manager.
With a focus on people from cultural minorities suffering from mental health conditions. 
Aram Hasan ran from his home country Syria, after being arrested and tortured. 

Dr Aram Hasan – Psychiatrist CoTeam:
I arrived twenty years ago, at the end of 1999.
I stayed in six different refugee camps.
It was very difficult for me. I was afraid of not being accepted, of being rejected.
And I also felt anxiety about the future:
Would they accept my request or not?
From the beginning, I did a lot of voluntary work, because I was a doctor and I spoke five different languages as well, so I worked as a translator.

I was very tense.
I started having nightmares.
I kept dreaming that I would die without ever seeing my children again.
Unconsciously, I started to hurt myself physically, out of guilt.
I felt guilty for leaving my children behind in a war situation.

On-screen text: After graduating as a psychiatrist, he works for a known treatment centre for psychotrauma. 
In 2017 Dr Aram Hasan Starts his own practice in Rotterdam. 
So far with over 200 clients from various cultural backgrounds.

One result that we also see in the research
is that we don't have dropouts or no-shows.

Activation is the main thing
that we work on.

If a patient comes to me and tells me
they struggle to write things down...

I tell them: But you can draw.
You can work with your hands.

So I ask them if they have any pictures...

or something they brought with them
from their country.

I ask them to make a voice recording
or a video fragment and bring it with them.

Activation is very important.

When we arrived here, not a single doctor
understood how we were feeling.

They weren't familiar with war situations.

With mental health problems
you need your own language to dig deep.

Because dr. Aram is
from a war-torn country himself...

he is much better able to understand us.

On-screen text:

Logo Mind the mind now appears on screen. 

Aram knows exactly how it feels to be uncertain about your future and frustrated in your aspirations to build a new life in a foreign country. With a lot of effort and stamina, he managed to find his place in the Netherlands, where he is completely at home now. Here he finished his medicine studies and became a psychiatrist, specialising in refugees processing war trauma.

Trauma is one of the obstacles to integration, as it hampers people in their work and other forms of participating in society. Aram develops therapies that ensure effectiveness of mental health care for refugees. Such special approaches are needed, because treatment is thwarted by cultural differences that complicate communication between therapists and clients even more than just linguistic barriers do.