18th-24th June 2018 is Refugee Week!
As part of our theme Speak, Listen, Change, this article explores some of the mental health issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers.
People seeking sanctuary have often fled traumatic circumstances at home, such as war, torture or loss of loved ones. They may have undergone a difficult and distressing journey to reach a place of relative safety. Refugees display remarkable resilience to make it through this journey and begin to rebuild their lives, but that doesn’t mean that the trauma has disappeared, and it can contribute to ongoing mental health problems.
People who arrive in the UK seeking asylum also face a system that can undermine their mental health. Mind identify the uncertainty of waiting for a decision, or being granted ‘leave to remain’ rather than full refugee status, along with destitution, detention and disbelief from the authorities as contributing to mental health problems amongst asylum seekers. Isolation, loss of contact with family and unwelcoming communities also have an impact.
“It should always be borne in mind that it is not the refugees who are abnormal, but rather the circumstances in which they find themselves.”
Mind report: Improving mental health support for refugee communities – an advocacy approach.
Refugee Week is all about celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. Sharing friendship, being creative and showing people that they are valued are all important for supporting our mental wellbeing – both for refugees and the wider community. These celebrations won’t magic problems away, but they can help us start to heal.