October 10th is World Mental Health Day. As you might imagine, mental health is a huge concern for many refugees, who face tremendous loss, trauma, and upheaval in their lives. Many refugees have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Others suffer from anxiety and depression (as noted in Scientific American). They have seen their homes destroyed, their lives turned unsafe, and their well-being compromised.
Unfortunately, refugees often struggle to get help for their mental health disorders. In some cases, this is because there are simply too many other pressing concerns to deal with – finding housing, a job, supporting a family. In other cases, cultural beliefs make it a difficult subject to broach. There may not be any mental health services available where refugees are. It simply becomes the case that dealing with mental health is a luxury that most refugees and displaced persons do not have.
Mental health is a luxury that most refugees and displaced persons do not have.
Peacebuilding Solutions Director of Research Rachel Lewis points to the stigma that mental health disorders still carry as another reason why many displaced persons do not seek treatment or even talk about what they are going through. While in the field, she was careful not to ask too many questions about mental health when interviewing groups of people. As outsiders to the communities we work with, we have to recognize that such topics may have negative effects on people and their relationships with others in the community.
That does not mean that we can simply forget about mental health. Instead, we must address some of the causes of mental health disorders. By creating a safe community for displaced persons, we are giving them a chance to heal. At Peacebuilding Solutions, we also make sure to give refugees a voice. This gives them the ability to change their own lives. We recognize that it’s important to give people the opportunity to change their own futures.
This World Mental Health Day, Peacebuilding Solutions asks that you take a moment to think about the traumas that refugees face. We all have a responsibility to make talking about mental health less of a stigma.