Refugees & Mental Health
The number of refugees is constantly rising across the world. It hence comes as no surprise that their mental health before and after their displacement is an issue for research across countries. According to UNHRC statistics, as of 31 May 2018, there are 68.5 million displaced people across the globe. Out of these 25.2 million are refugees, 40 million are internally displaced and 3.1 million are asylum seekers.
Refugees are normally defined as people who had to flee their native land due to local circumstances and move to a different country. This particular article will consider the internally displaced population as ‘refugees’ as well.
Most of the research that has looked into the mental health of refugees has seen it from the view of post traumatic stress disorder. They have mostly looked into the effect after the stressful event has ended and ignored various other important aspects of the refugee plight. A refugee has to go through various Stressors that include pre-flight stress, flight stress, exile stress and finally the resettlement stress.
Imagine you had to leave your home, your city and your country because of a civil war. You couldn’t take anything along and you just had to get of that place to preserve your precious life. Your friends have been killed in the crossfire and you have a wife and 2 kids to take care of.
You manage to find a boat with sailors. They say they will take you out of the country but they demand money; money that you would have considered change in the past but you don’t have a penny now. You somehow convince them. You are on the boat, you feel safe, but only for a while.
The boat tumbles and rocks through the sea and you lose your daughter to the sea. Your child is dead. You were the happiest man in the world when you saw her for the first time but now she is dead. You reach a new land. You are handcuffed there and separated from your family. They tell you, you are an illegal alien and that you don’t belong here.
You don’t have a home. You don’t have your family. You are no one.
This is just a short summary of everything that refugees go through. Once displaced, they live their life between a rock and a hard place.
Refugee Mental Health
Despite the welcoming nature of many countries for refugees, it is still a hard job to adapt to a completely new world. Socio-economic disadvantage, marginalization and acculturation are some of these challenges. It is hard to think that anyone can come out of this unscathed both physically and emotionally.
A study into Bhutanese refugees in USA found that they were 3 times more likely to commit suicide than other citizens. It is with disappointment then that I write this; there are actually very few studies that look into suicides among refugees. The ones that look into their mental health only look at it from the view of PTSD. It seems that even science has abandoned these people looking for a place to call home.
There are nearly 70 million people refugees in the world. The number is increasing day by day. Sadly, it seems that our indifference towards them, is increasing as well.
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