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Understanding the mental health needs of refugees

An interview with Jenny Hwang on the effects of forced migration.

Jenny Hwang, used with permission
Source: Jenny Hwang,

Each day, refugees are forced from their homes. Most often, the places they go lack access to mental health resources. Luckily, work is being done to learn more about refugee mental health and address this growing worldwide need.

We interviewed Jenny Hwang to understand refugee mental health needs better. She is the Managing Director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College. She earned a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Boston College and a master’s degree in international disaster psychology from the University of Denver. As an undergraduate, she worked at the Cambridge Women’s Center with women who experienced violence, homelessness, mental illnesses, and trauma. She has worked in Cambodia with local organizations on preventative initiatives for human trafficking. While pursuing her master’s degree, she worked with refugees on a domestic level as part of the family stabilization unit of Lutheran Family Services. As the Managing Director of HDI, she administers and manages research activities of the Institute.

JA: How would you define refugee mental health?

JH: I do have some hesitancy using the term “refugee mental health” because, often, it can undermine the vastness of mental health concerns and implications of the refugee experience. It’s a term that seems nuanced but any practitioner who has ever worked with refugees will note the complexities of the term “refugee mental health” and its possible implications.

But to give a broad definition, I would say it is an overall concern for the well-being of anyone who has experienced forced migration; it is the unique attention to the mental health concerns that arise from this experience, which is often webbed in political oppression, exposure to violence, discrimination, socioeconomic burdens, disruptions of identity, acculturation, and more.

JA: How can understanding mental health needs for refugees help our communities?

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JH: Becoming educated on the experiences of forced migration and its possible mental health impact can help us think more critically about our existing mental health care accessibility not only in regard to physical access but also the diversity of culturally appropriate interventions.

We will start to move toward an attitude of inclusivity when people are concerned with the well-being of others; take into account the similarities and differences; and build appropriate resources. This fosters more resilientcommunities.

JA: What are some ways people can learn more about refugee mental health issues?

JH: There are great resources out there that provide general information on refugee issues worldwide such as the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International, and International Office of Migration (IOM). Organizations like the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) and National Child and Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) provide great research, resources, and training focused specifically on psychological well-being.

JA: Any advice for those working with refugees in their own communities or abroad?

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JH: Collaborate. Helping people who have been forced to leave their homes can be incredibly challenging. Mental health for refugees involves more than addressing trauma. Everyday stressors like the uncertainty of the future, language barriers, health concerns, discrimination, and livelihood concerns are all crucial factors influencing mental health.

In the resettled refugee contexts, addressing the multitude of these concerns means taking an ecological framework by working collaboratively with a diverse team of lawyers, community navigators, social workers, doctors, advocates, and, when appropriate, religious leaders or indigenous healers.

In the international context, working collaboratively with the host communities (when applicable) and other organizations that are present allows a higher probability of engaging more holistic mitigation efforts. Also, the people you are hoping to serve are most likely the experts of their own needs. So engage, when feasible, the people you are serving as participatory agents.

JA: What projects are you currently working on?

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JH: You and I are working on an edited book about refugee mental health that is geared toward practitioners working with resettled refugee communities. We purposively asked a diverse network of practitioners and researchers to contribute in hopes of drawing wisdom from many different mental health perspectives. In the book, we feature social workers, MDs, clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, and lay counselors about their experience in working with resettled refugee communities.

Culled from Psychology Today

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

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Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Cracking the $150b business of human trafficking

 

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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