Group Support for Vulnerable Groups as a Prerequisite for Mental Health

(Olha Korobanova)

Institute for Social and Political Psychology, National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine

Introduction. Internally displaced persons have experienced stress and need to improve their attitudes towards difficult life circumstances and rethink the meaning of their own behavior for a positive transformation of these circumstances. Group support which refugees receive in groups of like-minded people and people with a similar life story has a beneficial effect on them.

The purpose of the study: identify the risks and peculiarities of the situation in which the refugees find themselves; to investigate the nature of changes in the group aspect of their life situation, namely, personal contacts, relationships, and role communication; identify strategies and behavior applied by internally displaced persons in order to minimize the impact of the prevailing circumstances, to adapt and reintegrate into new groups.

Theoretical part. Design. The study was conducted in temporary groups formed by chance from those participants who came to the master classes on the announcement. The study involved 189 participants aged from 20 to 63, who were included in 25 groups.

Methodology: the included observation of groups in the course of their work, methods of action, conversation, study of the repertoire of vital roles, as well as art therapy techniques, in particular the “I’m in a group” collage, thematic drawings of contact groups in time context, visualization of established communication circle etc.

Results and discussion. Internally displaced persons lose regular contact with many people with whom they had previously closely communicated. This entails corresponding experiences, as well as a modification of the format of these contacts. Loss of groups and separation from close people leads to modification of role communication. The repertoire of life roles in the direction of detachment, the desire to look at the situation in which a person found himself, from the side, to become an “observer” is significantly reduced. Another positive aspect of the modifications is the provision of assistance and support to others who have similar problems.

The subjects of social behavior are able to self-regulate their own lives, activities, actions, on the basis of previously internalized patterns of behavior, which include desirable development of future events and situations. The person is included in the society and realizes needs, desires and goals by performed in groups` roles. The availability of inclusion causes "interpersonal" (The principles of cognitive communication psychology, 2013) or personality-role interrepresentation as a value-sense and role coherence of the intersubjective field of participants in group interaction. On this basis person create role models of human actions in a particular interaction situation. The process of personality-role modeling is a psychological mechanism for the development of roles as a way of action in a variety of situations (Korobanova, 2017). In our opinion, role-based dimensions of personality are role mobility, variability and differentiation. Uniting into groups of belonging, relying on the feeling of group identity in overcoming the hopelessness as building plans for the future in a group of like-minded people is often peculiar to people in difficult life circumstances.

Group support of participants were associated with acceptance, support, care, ability to solve problems, the emergence of a sense of confidence, relief, communication from the standpoint of equality, based on the principles of justice, goodness, leading to self-realization. As a result their inner world harmonized. Under such conditions, inclusion in the group with a similar history serves as a psychological support function.

It is important to pay attention to the process of setting boundaries during communication. Psychological borders may be marked by the psychological distance, positive or negative emotional manifestations, as well as the definition of similar or different values. Thus, socio-psychological resources to overcome complex life situations and their consequences by vulnerable groups are inclusion in the group, establishment and maintenance of communication links, abilities to identify and support social and psychological boundaries.

Conclusions: the loss of groups and people with whom the refugees maintained communication leads to the loss of communication roles. This phenomenon can be viewed in a positive way, since it releases psychological resources for adaptation and overcoming the prevailing circumstances. There is a comprehension, planning as a condition for refugees to build new models of behavior in the changed circumstances.

Inclusion in groups of internally displaced persons provides them with psychological support and activates resources of overcoming behavior. In general, the group component and, in particular, the availability of group support is important for the mental health and psychological well-being of refugees. Changing the circumstances of living in difficult life situations leads to the loss of groups and psychological roles, as well as the acquisition of new ones; therefore, role-based flexibility, variability and differentiation are important factors in overcoming such situations and their consequences.

Keywords: stress, aid to refugees, communication practices, communication skills, social role, social protection, mental health, right to health.


1. The principles of cognitive communication psychology (2013) [Zasady kohnityvnoi psykholohii spilkuvannia] Kazmirenko V. P. [Ed.] Kirovohrad, Imeks-LTD. [in Ukrainian].

2. Korobanova O. L. (2017) Personal-role modeling of active social behavior by youth [Osobystisno-rolove modeliuvannia moloddiu aktyvnoi sotsialnoi povedinky]. Scientific studies on social and political psychology [Naukovi studii z sotsialnoi ta politychnoi psykholohii]. 40 (43). 147-156. Kyiv, Zoloti Vorota. [in Ukrainian].

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