The two-year project, kindly funded by City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s Charity, is coming to an end this month and culminates in the launch ‘Mental health commissioning with migrant communities’ - a guide for mental health service providers, including local Minds across England and Wales, and other commissioners.
There are approximately 117,176 refugees living in the UK, which amounts to 0.17 per cent of the UK’s 66.1 million population. Although asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants make up a very small proportion of the UK, rates of certain mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and phobias are five times greater than among the general population.
The most disadvantaged migrants are those fleeing persecution and conflict in their home countries, who are traumatised not only by the experiences that drove them into exile, but also by the journeys they make and by the suspicion, disbelief, abuse and arbitrary detention they may face in the UK. The UK asylum system is ill-equipped to deliver specialist therapeutic help, while accessing support through the NHS can be hampered by language difficulties, social inequality and by differing cultural attitudes to mental health.
The guide draws on the experiences of engaging migrant communities and commissioners. It was developed in collaboration with a number of expert local Minds, who are responsible for delivering mental health services in communities with sizable vulnerable migrant, asylum seeker and refugee communities, including Mind in Bexley, Brent Mind, Bromley and Lewisham Mind, Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest, Mind in Ealing and Hounslow, Greenwich Mind, Mind in Harrow and Wandsworth and Westminster Mind.
The celebration event took place on Tuesday 26 September 2017, at NCVO in Central London, with the aim of sharing best practice when it comes to the mental health needs of vulnerable migrant, refugee and asylum seeker communities.
A range of speakers including representatives from the Refugee Council, The Home Office and the Goodwin Development Trust provided their own perspectives based on their experiences supporting vulnerable migrants. There was also a powerful performance - ‘Ice and Fire’, which used real life moving monologues spoken by actors to provide an insight into the genuine stories of asylum seekers. In this instance, the focus was on two individuals fleeing persecution and even death in their native countries – Uganda and The Congo respectively. This emotive exploration into the lives of migrants left much of the audience in tears and brought into sharp focus the complex needs and often harrowing experiences that take place on the lengthy journey to seeking safety and asylum in the UK.
“This important event marked the culmination of a vital project, kindly funded by City Bridge Trust. Over the past two years, along with eight local Minds, we have been working with some of the most vulnerable members of society – including migrant, refugee and asylum seeker communities - in order to gain an insight into their unique mental health needs.
“Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable migrants in local areas is one of the biggest challenges facing commissioners, especially given the lack of research in this area. We are really proud to be launching this guide and hope local community-based mental health services make use of it to work with mental health service commissioners to develop better and more culturally-sensitive mental health support for some of the most disadvantaged and under-prioritised members of our communities.”