Foreign Psychologists Offer Free Counseling To Expats Traumatized By Itaewon Crowd Crush

Foreign counselors step in amid lack of public mental health care in other languages for expats.

Itaewon is a favorite area for expats in Seoul, with one of the largest expat communities in South Korea. Itaewon is also close to the U.S. army base in Seoul and offers many western restaurants, shops, English language services, and amenities.

It is no wonder many expats were affected by the Itaewon tragedy on that fateful day, October 29.

Paula Nascimento is a Brazilian office worker suffering from depression and anger after seeing first-hand the nightmare on Itaewon’s Halloween night.

My mind kept straying back to when I saw emergency rescuers and citizens performing CPR on people lying unconscious on the street. What terrifies me the most is the faces of teenagers in the crowd screaming for help.

— Paula Nascimento

People who witnessed the Itaewon crowd crush like Nascimiento, the injured, families mourning their lost loved ones, and those triggered by disturbing videos and photos of the crowd crush may be experiencing psychological trauma.

Makeshift booths have been set up for them not far from where the disaster occurred, where mental health care professionals offer free counseling, but only in Korean. Foreign nationals came to these booths hoping to get psychological therapy, but no professionals could counsel them in English or other foreign languages. ‘

Makeshift tents set up for professional counselors to provide mental health support | Choi Jae Hee/The Korea Herald

To address their needs, private counseling services in Seoul are organizing group therapy sessions. By next week, Adaptable Human Solutions, a mental health center near Gongdeok Station in Seoul, will start offering four psychological counseling sessions in English every Wednesday.

Dr. Jill Dunbar, a clinical psychologist from the UK, will lead the group counseling sessions for participants to share painful memories or concerns. Each session will be filled by up to twenty participants on a first-come, first-served basis.

The deadly incident in Itaewon has inflicted collective grief. When it comes to overcoming psychological trauma, it is very important to speak out about your traumatic events in a supportive environment. Words of consolation from people who have had similar experiences can help you confront the trauma and deal with emotional distress. Otherwise, you are likely to feel isolated and lonely, which can make things worse.

— Dr. Jill Dunbar

Dr. Jill Dunbar | Adaptable Human Solutions

Another foreign psychologist from Canada, Adrian Dezwart, also planned to host group therapy sessions for foreigners and English-speaking Koreans through his English-language mental health center, Mindful Seoul in Seolleung, southern Seoul.  The session is today, November 3, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Dezwart considered it his responsibility to help those affected by the tragic crowd crush incident.

The long-lasting impact of a situation like the Itaewon disaster can be devastating to one’s mental health if not managed effectively. It is imperative those who were impacted by this incident are heard and supported throughout this challenging time. No one should be left to deal with this on their own. The individuals without anyone close to them are most at risk and will benefit the most from professional mental health support.

— Adrian Dezwart

Adrian Dezwart | Mindful Seoul

There are 12 spots and applications available for those who want to be part of the group counseling session at on a first come, first served basis.

Those who wish to attend the group therapy sessions can send their name and phone number to the Adaptable Human Solution’s email at

Source: The Korea Herald