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  • Writer's pictureAmarjit Dass

Addressing Mental Health In Refugees

As a last resort, people need to leave their homes when they experience traumatic events and adverse situations including political persecution, torture, loss of loved ones, genocide, or sexual violence in their home country. But, unfortunately, their struggle doesn’t end here. Traveling great distances without water and food to reach the camps, and once they arrive at the camps, they are encountered with ongoing stressors and additional adverse situations.

Refugees experience post-resettlement stressors including uncertainty over access to basic needs such as food and water, poor accommodations, restricted economic opportunity, or language barriers, etc. Moreover, cultural misunderstanding, institutional and societal marginalization, harassment, discrimination, internalization of stereotypes, separation from family, and feelings of loneliness have a considerable negative effect on their lives.

Not just this, but refugees are alternatively seen as entitled victims of adversity, or they are viewed as potential threats to the stabilization of the social order in host countries. Moreover, increasing hostility around religion, region, and race have portrayed refugees as potential frauds and criminals. This shift in perception negatively affects public attitudes, access to resources, and social policies for refugees.

Well-being and mental health are not just the consequence of past experience, but current economic, cultural, and social circumstances are among the major contributors. Many refugees and migrants suffer from mental disorders. Due to the language barriers, stigmatization, and other difficulties that refugees face, they can’t easily communicate their mental or physical health issues. Not only has post-traumatic stress disorder been diagnosed in refugees but they also suffer from anxiety and depression.

A number of different international policy-making bodies and professional associations have acknowledged the mental and physical needs of refugees and migrants. But as we know, extremity casts adverse effects, the perception of refugees being a victim, powerless, and vulnerable reduces their confidence and self-esteem. Media, tourists, NGOs, and other public organizations may unconsciously portray the image of refugees as deserving, poor, uneducated, and lacking resources. Even if they do it for the sake of helping them. But, such depictions can result in refugees' learned helplessness, and hopelessness, and believing that they don't belong to where they are. Hence, there is an immense need to bring awareness in the right amount, and the right way.

What We Should Do?

Mindful humanitarian approach is required that can deal with the racial trauma, mental and physical health disparities. Education should promote cultural competence to deconstruct prevailing prejudices about refugees for more empathetic understanding, and address current refugee predicament.

Moreover, psychosocial interventions targeting education, employment, and baseline safety should be carried out. Refugees must be included in the dialogues, discussions, and developing policies and programs that are especially designed to address their needs. Community organizations should work together to bring people closer, allowing refugees to feel connected, and safe and encouraging them to communicate their physical, and mental health needs comfortably.

The responsibility does not only lie on the policy-making departments, government, organizations, and other institutes, but everyone must play its part in making life easier for refugees, providing them the basics and helping them live just like everyone else. Moreover, you can join community support groups and be a part of organizations that work to address the delicate balance between the ethical debates and respect of individual positions associated with this humanitarian crisis.


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