Mindfulness for Austria

Many years of research into fundamental questions have led me, Ingrid Otepka,
to the following assumption:

A trauma-sensitive, low-threshold, digital, location-independent, and free mind­ful­ness service especially held in the languages of refugees promotes the de­ve­lop­ment of a future perspective for people who have experienced war, violence or flight.

Questions posed where

What does Austria need in order for its inhabitants to live together in a good way?

What do people from war zones need so they will be able to find a perspective for the future?

How can people cope in a healthy way when dealing with extreme experiences?

o How can a program for almost 80 million people seeking refuge in 2019 look like?

Trauma-sensitive because ...

The current health of refugees has an impact on the shaping of a supplementary psychosocial service. According to the results of a survey by the Scientific Institute of the General Local Health Insurance Fund (AOK) in Germany in 2018, more than three quarters of all refugees from Syria, Iraq and Af­gha­ni­stan have witnessed violence and therefore often suffer from trauma. I do not know of any broad study on the mental health of refugees. However, the findings of the survey suggest that a large pro­por­tion of refugees are likely to suffer from trauma.
Therefore, the implementation of trauma-sensitive services is crucial.

Low-threshold, because ...

A survey by UNESCO Global Education Agenda Migration, Flucht und Bildung 2019 found that in 2016, 15% of asylum seekers in Germany were illiterate. Over the last few years in Austria, I have noticed a big number of illiterate and agraphic students attending my classes. The need for illiteracy courses in Vienna is still strong. Current illiteracy offers at German language departments make this fact obvious. One can see how refugees, disadvantaged by lack of schooling, do not demonstrate sufficient formal education. Offering low-threshold services would be extremely important.

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Digital because ...

It seems that almost all refugee families in Austria have access to at least one cell phone. According to information from Caritas a smart phone for a refugee is of higher priority than any other item, as this is usually the only way to keep in touch with friends and relatives. A supplementary psychosocial service via cell phone can thus be used by almost all refugee families in Austria as well as by refugees in other countries.

Location-independent because ...

Almost 80 million people worldwide were seeking refuge in 2019, according to the annual UNHCR statistics report Global Trends The hosting countries offer various types of psychosocial services. To be able to provide additional psychosocial service to reach millions of refugees, it needs to be in­de­pen­dent of location.

Free of charge because ...

In order for a supplementary psychosocial service to be used across the board, easy, barrier-free access is required. One criterion is money. That’s why we choose a free service.

Low-threshold trauma-sensitive mindfulness exercises, especially in the lan­gua­ges of the refugees, support those affected by finding a healthy way of dea­ling with the consequences of trauma and achieving peace of mind. Every week 3 short online exercises are being offered. The participants may use them daily independently. This facilitates better orientation in a new country and fosters in­ter­cul­tu­ral communication, perspectives for the future as well as integration into a new society.

Mindfulness exercises because ...

Many people define their well-being by external circumstances. Sometimes it can be that these ex­ter­nal circumstances cannot be influenced. How we deal with them may determine whether we can live with difficult external conditions or whether we break because of them. Mindfulness exercises help, among other things, to find a healthy way of dealing with difficult situations that cannot be changed. This reduces internal stress and promotes a feeling of well-being. The positive effect of mindfulness exercises on health has been approved again and again in numerous scientific studies for decades. Our principles are based on Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the leading scientists in the field of mindfulness and founder of the Center For Mindfulness an der University of Massachusetts.

Especially in the languages of refugees because ...

When it comes to reducing internal stress or dealing with intense emotions in a healthy way, we believe that preference should be given to the language that connects directly to the emotions. According to the study Multilinguals‘ perceptions of feeling different when switching languages by Jean-Marc Dewaele and S. Nagano from 2012, this being in most cases the mother tongue. That’s why we would like to offer mindfulness exercises in the languages of refugees. Offering the exercises in the national language is in our view a meaningful addition.

With Mindfulness for Austria we would like to make these exercises available in the languages of refugees as well as in German and promote the use of these exercises in organizations in the psychosocial field and in German courses throughout Austria. That is why the target audience are refugees in Austria as well as ma­na­gers and employees of Austrian organizations.