UK puts mental health of refugees and asylum seekers at risk
Posted Thursday 5 November 2009
Mind has found evidence that the UK's complex asylum seeker process, detention centres and aspects of UK life are actively worsening the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers. In two new reports, the charity shows how a lack of support and resources for refugees and asylum seekers is both exacerbating pre-existing mental health conditions and triggering them in the first place.
In the first ever report to map what services are available to refugees and asylum seekers (1) Mind found that people who come to the UK seeking refuge face a stark lack of understanding of their mental health needs and are often denied access to crucial services and treatments. Restrictive policies on healthcare, education, accommodation and employment are having devastating consequences, further marginalising refugees and asylum seekers from society.
In a second report (2), Mind worked with Refugee Community Organisations (RCOs) to examine the role they play in refugee and asylum seeker mental health and found that Primary Care Trusts and Local Authorities need to do more to improve their engagement with RCOs and develop more culturally appropriate services.
Diverse Minds manager Marcel Vige said:
"Every year thousands of people arrive in the UK seeking sanctuary, often fleeing conflict and persecution having experienced torture, violence or imprisonment. It's not surprising that many will have developed mental health problems as a result of their traumatic experiences but what is surprising is that many more will develop mental health problems once on UK soil. A popular assumption is that once refugees arrive in this country that their problems are over but our research has clearly shown that it can be just the beginning.
"We found that refugees and asylum seekers routinely face isolation, poverty and destitution, which can have a devastating impact on their mental wellbeing. Accessing services is hugely difficult for a wide range of reasons, from language barriers to the stigma surrounding mental health, and this further marginalises them to the isolated fringes of society. While we came across some excellent examples of tailored services for refugee and asylum seekers a vast number are not getting much needed help."
Mind is now calling for development and investment in services to meet the mental health needs of refugees and asylum seekers particularly children, young people and families as well as services to address trauma and torture. The charity is also hoping to work closer in future with the Department of Health on these important issues.
(2) Mind, 2009, Improving mental health support for refugee communities