World Mind Matters Day 2015: call for greater awareness of the mental health needs of refugees

4 September 2015

On World Mind Matters Day the Mental Health Foundation calls for greater awareness of the mental health needs of refugees.

Our focus of attention has to extend beyond simply being a place of refuge, to one that actively helps families fleeing appalling circumstances to deal with trauma and loss and its impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

The Mental Health Foundation has added its support to World Mind Matters Day which is launching a programme for training psychiatrists to care for the mental health issues affecting refugees and migrants. The Foundation is calling for greater awareness of the mental health needs of refugees, in particular those who have experienced trauma. World Mind Matters Day is an initiative by the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) aimed at raising awareness of fairness in mental healthcare for all.

The inaugural World Mind Matters Day takes on an increased significance against the backdrop of the ongoing and developing refugee crisis. The WPA has issued a position paper from its '€˜Working Group on Migrant, Refugee and Asylum Seeker Mental Health Patients'. It outlines recommendations to support service providers, policy makers and mental health professionals to address the different needs of the patients they are responsible for.

An additional paper has also been produced by the WPA on social justice, underlining the need to recognise discrimination and social exclusion faced by people living with mental health problems.

Jenny Edwards CBE, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation said:

€œ"There is a need to give active and urgent consideration globally to the mental health problems faced by refugees fleeing appalling circumstances. We need to ensure that there is mental health support for refugees, some of whom will have experienced the loss of loved ones, experienced violence, abuse or torture. The international obligations the UK has entered into extend beyond being a place of refuge for refugees to, for example, the obligation to offer rehabilitation for victims of torture.

€œ"We know from our work with refugees that there is a high prevalence of mental health problems amongst those fleeing persecution and violence. This is unsurprising given the significant emotional turmoil they may have endured both in their need to seek refuge and the active process of trying to get to a safe haven.

"Our experience is that facilitating peer support, which explores mental health, self-management and stigma, achieves positive progress and produces first-hand information that can be incorporated into training for key organisations like the UK Border Agency.€

Amal Azzudin, Community Development Facilitator for the Mental Health Foundation said:

€œThe Amman project we recently ran in Glasgow has had a transformative effect on the lives of female asylum seekers and refugees. The feedback from those involved has been that the support provided has been empowering and has had a positive impact on their mental health."

The Mental Health Foundation has led a programme of work with minority communities in Scotland for almost a decade and with asylum seekers and refugees for over 5 years. This work has brought together valuable partnerships and involved community groups and affected individuals in research studies to inform solutions to help with wellbeing, and in the devising and delivering on community programmes using workshops, arts events and advocacy. Together with partners such as the Scottish Refugee Council, the NHS and Strathclyde Centre for Health Policy, we have helped hundreds of people and helped to shape Scotland 'New Scots' social inclusion strategy. We are currently working with NHS health Scotland and Universities to lead peer research with asylum seekers and refugees on a human rights approach to health.

Relevant links:

World Mind Matters Day

WPA position paper on refugees (PDF)

WPA position paper on social justice (PDF)

The MHF's work on improving the mental wellbeing of asylum-seeking and refugee women