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Refugees regularly face mental health challenges

Refugee tent in a camp in Greece. The UN report shows that refugees can be affected by poor health outcomes. CREDIT: Julie Ricard / Unsplash)
  • by Juliet Morrison (United Nation)
  • Associated Press Service

The World report on the health of refugees and migrants, published on 20 July 2022, is the first to examine studies of various refugee health outcomes, including mental health.

The report highlights that refugees are not inherently less healthy than host populations but are different social factors, including changes in income, substandard living conditions. and barriers to other services, which can lead to poorer health and well-being.

Refugees from conflict-affected areas are also at increased risk for mental disorders such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Although rates vary by population and region, one research cited by WHO estimates the burden of the conditions to be 22.1 percent.

But experts warn that estimates of PTSD in this area may be overstated because it is difficult to distinguish a response to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a normal behavioral response to trauma.

The WHO report also delves into the importance of mental health, which Dr Timothy Mackey, professor of global health at the University of California San Diego, tells IPS is often overlooked.

According to one report, only 0.3% international support for health went to mental health care from 2006-2016. Refugees can also do not have access to medical services in certain countries based on their migration status.

The neglect of mental health care is often due to limited resources and capacity, Mackey adds. Health care issues that are more seen and widely studied tend to take precedence over importance.

“It’s harder to support a lot of quantifiable diseases like infectious disease outbreaks, diabetes, heart disease or cancer, where you can have more compelling global disease burden statistics. “

Even so, Mackey added that addressing mental health could be a real boon for countries because mental health treatment has many positive effects.

“Because there can be such obvious acute trauma, and especially in the early stages of life with children, there can be very long-lasting effects on economic productivity or long-term health outcomes.” Tackling mental health is a preventive component. It can save health systems money, and it can lead to better outcomes in the long term.”

But disorder is only one aspect of mental health. Some scholars advocate treating refugees holistically – taking into account the refugee’s overall health in addition to visible health problems.

This means examining social factors that affect a person’s mental state, like living and working conditions. The WHO report reveals that both can play a big role in a refugee’s overall life.

According to a research, Palestinian refugees from the occupied territories have a reduced risk of psychosis when they are in safe housing in Lebanon. Another study of Southeast Asian refugees in Canada found that mental health significantly improved after refugees entered the labor market and were able to generate income.

Hussein Alzribi, a former refugee from Syria, is familiar with how a lack of security can affect happiness. He fled Syria in February 2016 and spent a short time in Greece before settling in the Netherlands.

Unable to practice law as a refugee, Alzribi told IPS his prolonged unemployment left him feeling hopeless.

“I can’t practice my profession, I don’t know who to ask, and I have no money. No one to guide and help me.”

Since then, he has co-founded a non-profit organization that provides training to help refugees find work. His co-founder, Bev Weise, told IPS their nonprofit, Refugee JumpStart, is a great support for refugees.

She says that being able to work and generate income makes them feel part of society.

Dr. Michaela Hynie, a professor of psychology at York University in Canada, echoes this statement. In her research, she finds that many of the issues surrounding refugee happiness stem from social exclusion and systemic problems, rather than individual problems.

She emphasized to IPS that many of the concerns of the refugees she encountered were centered around a lack of stability and security.

“We default to mental health, which allows us to say it’s about the individual and they have a mental health problem, and we need to teach them to be resilient instead of them being in a The system prevents them from setting things up that we need for mental health.”

In order to improve the welfare of refugees, she said, governments should focus on finding ways for people to thrive and find opportunities.

Most countries do not have a welfare policy for refugees. Many people are far from looking at refugee health comprehensively, Mackey told IPS.

Getting there should prioritize the health of the refugees. WHO has emphasized this requires a focus on data collection. Refugees are largely invisible to health data because large-scale surveys tend not to disaggregate their results by migration status. This can make public officials “forget” about health problems within their borders.

WHO states that more data could enable better monitoring and increased compliance with the refugee-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab said: “It is imperative that we do much more about refugees and migrants’ health, but if we are to change the status quo, we need urgent investments to improve quality. volume, relevance and completeness of health data on refugees and migrants,” the WHO Deputy Director-General noted in the report’s press release.

Data collection is essential to building meaningful policy, she added.

“We need sensible data collection and monitoring systems that truly represent the diversity of the world’s population and the experiences that refugees and migrants face around the world and can guide more effective policies and interventions.”

Report of the United Nations Office IPS


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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service

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