Thomas Marin is used to the fact that things can get rough at times. The Catholic deacon has been working in the Berlin juvenile detention center and in the Plötzensee prison for over ten years. In addition, Marin has also been volunteering as a pastor for the Malteser in disaster control for many years – whether in medical operations or in psychosocial emergency care. After the assassination at Breitscheidplatz, he devoted himself to the aftercare of mentally shaken witnesses to the attack. Since the attack on the Ukraine, Thomas Marin has been taking care of the refugees who have arrived there at the ZOB. “Pastor” is written in large letters on the back of his jacket. He speaks a little “school Russian” himself, as he puts it, and otherwise communicates using a translator app. At the same time, Marin experiences the immense helpfulness of the volunteers at the bus station, some of whom physically overtax themselves to the point of exhaustion. He also wants to be a contact for the committed and offers supportive talks.
Many volunteers help at the ZOB and other places; some have been in action for many weeks, are confronted with terrible fates and cruel photos. Does it happen that helpers feel mentally exhausted and overwhelmed after such assignments? This is definitely a big problem. Our aid coordinators and paramedics are trained to deal with such stressful scenarios. My colleagues and I reach them easily with offers to talk. It’s different with those volunteers who initially came to the central bus station or somewhere else of their own accord, organized themselves among themselves and didn’t have a structure for it. They wanted to help out of a good heart and with good will. Some have helped at the ZOB in an amount of time that is incredibly impressive. On the other hand, that’s not quite within the realm of sanity. Then there is also self-exacerbation. Added to this is the burden on the helpers who have caught the people when they get off the bus and who are shown the bad stories unfiltered or shown dramatic photos. And that again and again. But we hardly reach these committed people with our offers, because some of them stay away at some point and take their mental stress with them. How should one behave? These are traumatizing experiences. I can only advise those who are too close to suffering to protect themselves. That doesn’t mean that person can’t help. But he has to make sure that he gains some distance again. When we started as Malteser at the ZOB, volunteers had already set up a self-organized structure there. There were people there day and night who at most went home for two or three hours to sleep in between. They didn’t even have the opportunity to calm down and let the experience sink in and recharge their batteries. You can’t cope with this permanent load. That’s why we had a clear shift system for our paramedics right from the start. How is it when you see people who work themselves out to the point of exhaustion. Do you approach these people? At the central bus station, of course, this is done by the on-site project management that has been set up in the meantime. She keeps an eye on the people who are docked with the Malteser. At the same time, however, there are self-organized voluntary structures where new helpers are constantly being added – including some who have previously helped at the main station or in Tegel or elsewhere. Of course we don’t have a mandate to tell them to go home and recharge their batteries. We can only offer ourselves. In view of the need, however, enough is never done there – which is why it is difficult for many to accept such an offer of help. But of course I use my assignments at the ZOB to seek dialogue with these helpers. Does it happen that helpers who are exhausted and feel mentally stressed still have feelings of guilt? There are definitely feelings of guilt. This is then expressed in the behavior of not being able to let go: I can’t go home now, I have to help people who are even worse off. This is then a compulsive behavior, arose from an actually good motivation. This is often a danger when there is no organized structure and no one was prepared for such a dramatic situation as is now being experienced every hour. Then it is difficult to process such experiences. There are signals that the soul passes on to the body. It is important to take these signals seriously as well. In such situations, we can only offer to dial our emergency number, which every paramedic has. It is available 24 hours. You can contact us at any time if you are feeling bad yourself or if you have the impression that another committed person is doing badly. We communicate that all the time. You don’t have to be ashamed if you get the impression that you can’t do it all anymore.