Improving Refugee Mental Health and Career
Improving refugee mental health and career is necessary as refugees experience severe situations that might put their mental health at risk. We all have had anxiety, stress or other mental health disorders, but our ones aren’t the same as the ones of the refugee.
We are not watering down anyone’s mental health, but most of us, at the end of the day, had a place to live in and maybe a family to talk to or someone to talk to. This is the exact opposite for the refugees, as they are most of the time not even sure where they will end up living in.
The fear and stress of not knowing where they will sleep the next night are in itself very challenging. Now add that with their exposure to challenging and life-threatening conditions during their migration journey and during their settlement and integration.
The only solution to this is providing them with mental health services so that they can relieve themselves of depression, stress, anxiety, PTSD and many more mental health disorders. Before we begin our blog, let’s first discuss what causes displacement in the first place.
Causes of Displacement
Without any doubt, the major reason for displacement is violence, whether it be war, civil war, violence, torture or crime. The violence of these kinds has led to millions of people leaving their homes and migrating to other countries. The other common reasons are drought, poverty, discrimination, inequality, resource shortage, food and life insecurity and poor governance. To get a better idea of this, let’s dive deep into a few of the most common reasons:
The serious violation and rejection of a person’s or a group’s human rights constitute persecution. Persecution is when threats to or violations of human rights are persistent or systematic, and governments either fail to protect their population or, in certain situations, actively take part in the violations. It could occur as a result of a person’s political or religious beliefs or because they are a part of a specific ethnic or social group.
Boys and men are frequently murdered, imprisoned, or made to participate in hostilities. They are obliged to leave or frequently hide in order to defend their families. In such a situation, their experiences of abuse and persecution provide challenges to their duties as defenders and caregivers for their families.
Due to their gender, women and girls also experience certain types of abuse. They are frequently the victims of rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced impregnation, and sexual torture. Particularly young children are at risk of being exploited, physically abused, denied an education, sexually assaulted, exploited, and enlisted as child soldiers.
Beyond the bullets and explosions of conflict, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) experience a great deal of insecurity. It includes losing one’s neighbourhood and one’s home, as well as not having access to housing, job, clean water, or health care. These issues are made worse for war refugees by their exile.
There is an unending number of nations that have experienced war, and millions of citizens from each nation had to flee their homes in order to survive. Boys and men are frequently murdered, imprisoned, or made to participate in hostilities. They are obliged to leave or frequently hide in order to defend their families.
Millions of people from each country had to flee their homes in order to survive in the countless number of war-torn countries. Men and boys are routinely killed, imprisoned, or forced to take part in combat.
Hunger and conflict are clearly related. Conflict puts civilians’ lives and livelihoods in danger for those who reside in a conflict zone. They are unable to meet their most basic necessities, such as food, as a result of lost wages. A person will flee to safety if the circumstance is dire enough and they are fortunate enough to escape.
That’s one motive to leave home, but in other situations, hunger is consistently a cause and a result of forced migration. Droughts and floods both have a severe impact on people’s quality of life in nations where agriculture is the primary industry. These are some of the hardest effects of climate change. A family may decide to relocate their lives even in the case of a natural calamity unrelated to the climate crisis, such as an earthquake.
Some people are able to relocate while keeping the majority of their savings or possessions. Some people might not experience hunger right away before being uprooted. Others, however, are less fortunate because they have already lost everything when they move. Or, they experience repeated displacement. Each relocation further depletes their resources, ability to obtain food, and level of adaptability.
Numerous effects of climate change have the potential to lead to displacement, exacerbate living conditions, or prevent those who have already been displaced from returning. Water is one of the few natural resources that is getting progressively harder to find in many refugee-hosting regions of the world.
Where temperatures are too hot and dry or too cold and wet, crops and cattle struggle to survive, endangering livelihoods. In these circumstances, climate change can function as a threat multiplier, escalating already-present tensions and increasing the likelihood of confrontations.
Over 20 million people relocate away from their homes and to other areas of their countries on average each year as a result of the hazards brought on by the intensifying and more frequent occurrence of extreme weather phenomena, such as cyclones, lengthy droughts, desertification, and sea-level rise.
In the context of climate change and natural calamities, some people are compelled to cross international borders and may occasionally require international protection. As a result, refugee and human rights law are crucial in this situation.
The Condition People Face When Forced to Flee
We can’t imagine ourselves running away from our comfortable homes and looking for a place that is barely good enough or not all good enough to live in. Well, this is exactly what refugees have to do in order to survive. Apart from this, there are various difficult conditions they have to go through. Here is a list of conditions that refugees go through when forced to flee:
Leave Everything Behind
Many people are forced to leave their homes within a short period of time, which means they have to leave most of their possessions behind. Occasionally, people don’t have enough time to take even the most basic things like food and water.
No Place To Stay
A refugee’s worst nightmare is not having a place to stay. Finding a place to live can sometimes take a while. In most cases, refugees don’t find a place to live and end up living in refugee camps, where it’s usually very crowded, and basic tents are provided.
No Health or Medical Facilities
It is very likely that refugees will have access to health or medical facilities as they move from place to place. When someone is sick or injured, this becomes more concerning. It is also common for people to suffer from malnutrition and various diseases after roaming around for days without medical assistance.
Deal with Mental Health Problems
The story of every refugee is different. Some may have seen horrific events; some may have lost their loved ones, some had to bury their loved ones, some had to live in extreme conditions and so much more. All these incidents result in mental health disorders. Statistics show that refugees have stress, anxiety and PTSD almost ten times higher than normal people.
May be Forced to Flee Again
There is no guaranteed place for refugees. They may stay in one place for a long time and be comfortable there, but all of a sudden may require to migrate to another place. This is especially the case for countries where war or violence is high in number.
Mental Health Challenges Influence Refugee Mental Health and Career
Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and Depression are among the most common mental health challenges refugees face. The main reason may seem the experience and turn of events they had to go through. However, it is the fear of going through it again that gives them the most anxiety and depression.
The fear of being able to live somewhere safe and the fear of taking care of family and children are the other most common reasons. Anxiety and depression also affect their daily living so much that they are not able to work or live life how they used to in their good times.
Moreover, as refugees aren’t able to get help from experts, the chances of extreme anxiety and depression going away also reduces. It becomes the new normal.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
The mental health disease known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is brought on by experiencing or seeing a horrific incident. Flashbacks, nightmares, excruciating anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the incident are just a few possible symptoms.
One of the most prevalent illnesses affecting refugee’s mental health and career is PTSD. PTSD prevalence among refugees ranges greatly, from 10–40%, depending on certain demographics. An inability to manage distressing memories, being provoked by comparable circumstances, and possibly even losing contact with reality are all symptoms of PTSD. PTSD is difficult to manage and can result in severe depression, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts or actions if left untreated.
Refugees frequently experience numerous horrific events quickly, making it more challenging for them to recover from them and leading to long-lasting PTSD.
After experiencing a traumatic event, some people develop obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Obsessive refers to uncontrollable pondering about a subject. Compulsion is the act of taking obsessive activity, sometimes against one’s will.
The OCD cycle involves a trigger that makes the sufferer have unfavourable thinking, which is followed by an action they do to calm themselves. Repeated handwashing, having trouble accepting doubt or confessing, aggressive or horrifying ideas about losing control and injuring yourself or others, a need for order and symmetry, as well as many other symptoms, can all be signs of this condition.
Substance Use Disorder
Substance use disorder is prevalent among refugees as a result of traumatic and frightening circumstances. Substance abuse is a means for them to numb all of the unpleasant and terrifying emotions they are experiencing. Additionally, refugees may turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with the trauma symptoms brought on by violence, displacement, and war. People in refugee camps may abuse alcohol and drugs to dull feelings of loneliness and insecurity.
When people are relocated to new countries, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to help them deal with culture shock, the stress of looking for work, and family separation. Refugees frequently use drugs for extended periods of time because adjusting to a new environment and nation takes time.
Grief frequently has an impact on displaced people. Many refugees have lost loved ones or don’t know what happened to them. Others have temporarily lost their houses and way of life. Without assistance, individuals could go through a difficult bereavement or have chronic grief symptoms. Such unresolved grief might have detrimental effects on one’s mental health.
In addition, grief can occasionally lead to other emotional and mental health issues. Many refugees use drugs and alcohol to cope with their loss, which again makes it harder for them to return to normal.
Mental Health Support For the Refugees
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of psychological treatment that helps with a range of problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, and other mental health disorders. In this therapy, refugees will work with a psychotherapist or therapist and attend a number of limited sessions.
These sessions help with self-awareness and being aware and taking control of inaccurate and negative thinking to make sure challenging situations are dealt with more effectively. CBT sessions are different depending on the individual but can be around 5 to 20 sessions, with each session lasting between half an hour to an hour.
Counselling is another type of talking therapy where professionals help people overcome various mental health issues like anxiety, depression, stress and numerous more. Counsellors talk to the clients about their problems and try to provide them with ways to overcome the situation they are suffering from and nurture their well-being.
Counselling has a specific process where the first part is to build a good relationship with the clients to help them open up more, and the problem is analysed. In this phase, the counsellor tried to find the root of the problem. Next, the counsellor sets the goal and plans for action. The final process is overcoming the problem.
Behavioural activation involves the use of behaviours to influence the emotional state of someone. It is considered to be part of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but it can also be a standalone treatment. This therapy focuses more on depression and that is why it is perfect for refugees.
Apart from depression, this therapy also helps with finding meaning, replacing unhelpful behaviours, improving relationships and gaining the capability to tackle the problem that are affecting the mood.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) focuses on improving the interpersonal functioning of a person. It helps with current problems rather than development or childhood issues. It is specifically helpful for dealing with mood disorders.
IPT is most structured and time-limited, taking up 12 to 16 weeks. Through IPT, a person can find the solution to deal with difficulties in starting and sustaining relationships, deal with life change and deal with grief and loss.
This form of therapy is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and this therapy focuses on depression, anxiety, stress, phobias and frequent panic attacks. Guided Self-help consists of simple in-between session where various techniques and coping strategies are provided that can be used to solve various problems.
Refugees all over the world are suffering. Statistics in the mid-year of 2022 showed that the number of refugees has increased by 25 per cent and is nearly 27 million in total. This number is massive and will only increase with time.
Every one of us as individuals has to step up in order to help these refugees. There are various ways and places we can donate. Another way is to become a mental health practitioner or a mental health enthusiast and help the refugees.