My mother always said that every generation has its own challenges, its own fight that they have to overcome. For my parents, it was the reunification of Germany in 1989, for our generation it’s the refugee crisis, some massive shift in population that brings a plethora of problems. I imagine my kids in two decades asking me “Dad, what did you do to solve those issues?” and I’ll tell them that we came up with this psychological concept that can help these people.
I decided to take this mission because it was needed. You can see how those masses of people who come into this region or to Germany, left on their own by the government, they don't get any actual help, they’re only put into refugee camps until their asylum status is either accepted or rejected. Even if they get accepted, they cannot afford mental healthcare. The aim of this project is to provide psychological care to refugees. Most of them suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, so we bring them together with students of psychology, to help them perform rewarding activities, and thus, integrate them into society.
These mental health problems directly touch your connection to reality. There are people who have painful memories and cannot deal with them, so they relive them over and over again. We have to be tolerant. If we stigmatise mental health issues, then we’ll obviously just say “Ok, if you're depressed, don't be sad” or “go outside and do something nice,” but that's not how it works and this is why we're trying to tackle it in a more holistic way. We’re raising awareness that these issues exist, that they're not adequately covered by social systems and that there's a hidden kind of suffering that no one realises. We try to push that up, because if we educate people on those issues, they’ll think about it when allocating funds to mental healthcare programs. That's our hope.
This isn’t easy. Sometimes there comes a member of the political party in power, someone who offers money, but asks for this or that in exchange… It’s been really helpful to practice Zen, Buddhism, those teachings have been very good guidance to me. I started into Zen practice after one of my friends told me about a Zen day that he wanted to try out, so he almost literally kicked my door in and got me there at five in the morning. It was a whole day of practising meditation, chanting. It’s a really simple process, it makes me feel good and this seems to help me suffer less, in addition to learning a lot, so I just keep doing it. The simplest solutions are always the best.
Meditation is my way of always coming back to myself and to my ideals. To stay loyal to the reason I’m doing this stuff in the first place: to help people, not to make money, and not to prove anyone about some social business bullshit. It's not about going to conferences and telling people how great I am. It’s for helping people and, as long as they’re suffering, I’m gonna be there.