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Refugee Week 2019: Simon finds strength living with PTSD by sharing his story

June 23, 2019

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During Refugee Week, batyr recognises the impact that the refugee experience can have on mental health.

This is Simon Shahin’s story, a Syrian refugee  and part of the batyr ‘herd’.

I’m a former refugee from Syria; I fled from the tormenting war in Syria in 2015 and was very fortunate to resettle in Australia with my family for the last four years.

Currently, I’m studying Renewable Energies Engineering at UTS and have been working with several organisations in the sector of refugee resettlement; I also seek to share my experience from the refuge-seeking journey to educate the public and increase the awareness about the crisis facing the numerous refugees worldwide (25+ million).

In Syria, I was studying Environmental Science at Damascus University but, during the war, my education was disrupted, and I was forced to abandon it towards the second/third year of the degree.

Further, me and my family underwent endless moments of fear, anxiety, worry, stress, tension, etc, from the near-misses of the constant mortar shelling, car exploding, bombing, air-raiding, stray bullets firing, etc—to make things worse, we used to experience prolonged blackouts of electricity, water supply shortage, food scarcity and even poisoning, etc, and so, our lives were very much like a living hades!

But, at last, we managed to flee to Lebanon with my family and apply for refugee status under the UNHCR mandate (and it was a very hard journey); we then had to wait for about two to three years and were finally granted the humanitarian visas to resettle in Australia (truly, a dream coming true—the chances of being granted these visas are close to those of winning the lottery).

When I arrived in Australia in 2015, I didn’t know much about the country and was amazed by several things and matters, including Vegemite, Christmas on the beach, kangaroos, etc, but mostly, I was overwhelmed by its incredible diversity (it’s an astounding strength).

Then, I started to work in the refugee resettlement sector and study and improve my English proficiency, but I was also battling with intense PTSD that was caused by the horrors and dreadfulness of the war (e.g. every time a balloon pops or a window shuts, it would trigger the tragic memories of explosions and bombings and would even force me to duck down to the ground—that’s how vivid and powerful it was, and this is common amongst most of the war refugees).

To overcome these reactions, I started running and playing piano—two activities that helped me be more confident about myself.

But, truly, it was only when I heard about batyr and attended one of their ‘Being Herd’ workshops that I first spoke about these feelings and their burdening dark past; in fact, I didn’t acknowledge that I had the issue until I’d actually talked about it, mainly because of societal stigmas surrounding this topic.

To reflect back, I can’t thank batyr enough for offering unique and genuine help; their heart-warming welcoming and attentive ear was second to none.

I now cherish having gained a second family which truly cares about my wellbeing as if I’m its child.

By sharing his story with the support of batyr, Simon was able to better manage his mental health.

If you’re interested in learning how to share your story, register your interest to attend a ‘Being Herd’ workshop.