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As mentioned in a previous article, the manipulation between media and the projection of mental health is subtle but very real. It aids in teaching us – forming our opinions and notifying us of events however biased it could be.

Similarly, we’ve seen the word refugee in the media quite a lot, especially with recent events. What do we think of when we see or hear the word? Do we empathise or consider it just another word that the world has opinions about in the economic and political context? What about the humanistic context?

First let’s reflect on ’refugee’, what is one?

“A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

It only takes reading that simple explanation to begin to get a scope of the struggles of a refugee – it is without a doubt that refugees face horrific repercussions such as mental illnesses whether apparent or not, and many studies have shown this.

The more common mental health diagnoses associated with refugee populations include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, adjustment disorder, and somatization. Research has found that refugees who have had severe exposure to violence often have higher rates of trauma-related disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain or other somatic syndromes (Kirmayer et al., 2011).

Just because an individual has successfully fled and has been tested and treated for physical ailments does not mean that they are now well, and everything is put behind them to lead a new life – they have just started on their road to recovery bi’ithnillah (with the permission of Allah).

The identification and treatment of mental health problems in refugees’ lags behind compared to screening for infections/diseases for example. This delay is also in part due to the varied languages, cultural contexts, and scattered refugee populations that may pose difficulties in recognising and treating mental illnesses across the refugee population.

Migration involves three major sets of transitions: changes in personal ties and the reconstruction of social networks, the move from one socio-economic system to another, and the shift from one cultural system to another (Bhugra, 2004).

The often traumatic reasons for leaving the country, as well as the potentially long and hazardous journey and process of resettlement, increases the risk for refugees to suffer from a variety of mental health issues. It is understandable that the experiences faced will stay with a refugee for a long time, and enhance their risk to psychological disorders. This can be in the form of increased vulnerability to depression, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, and psychosis, just to name a few.

More often than not these problems go without facing any solutions, and contribute to an increased risk to refugees for the development of mental health problems. Risk factors include the number of traumas, delayed asylum application process, detention, and the loss of culture and support systems (Mental Health).

Although there is a relative lack of evidence-based interventions, there are people out there who care, with support services put in place (although they are stretched due to the demands and influx of refugees), showing there is always hope, and we should contribute some hope to the hopeless.

Are there effective ways for us to help out, and refugees to help themselves?

Share your ideas and be sure to catch next week’s article where we will be having an exclusive account of first hand experience in camps and war torn countries.

Hamida Moulvi

Hamida has a BSc (Hons) Psychology degree, having studied modules concerning Emotions and Mental Health. She is passionate about giving back to the community as it is important to benefit others - every little helps, in inspiring changes and raising awareness, especially within Muslim communities where many cultures can believe mental health isn't a real problem. She has a love for the way Islam guides, inspires and heals (HasbunAllahu w ni'mal wakeel) and is also interested in languages, being multilingual. She believes words have a powerful impact whether that be in written or spoken form, and that we are all here to learn, implement and share so helping write articles would achieve this also.

One Comment

  • a muslim alhamdullah says:

    salaam alaikom

    barak Allah feeki sister Hamida for the insight into what refugees may be facing…all we can say i suppose is alhamdullah….as to your question what we may be able to do…the only thing i can personally think perhaps offering our time by providing ESOL lessons and comfort in other ways…directing them to organisations like HHUGS…etc….getting our masajid involved more….refugee days to mosques and be-friending and providing also financial support..perhaps by setting up if not already a waqf/beit maal for them…etc. all that perhaps goes on already..but im personally ignorant of it is not well known it seems in our communities…etc. where are the refugees? where are their centres?….i do not mean to dishearten…but it seems our xtain brethen have got facilities/programs for them !!…obviously, they are more funded and settled in the country….is there a world or uk refugee day/month..even though everyday is….

    as for helping refugees help them selves….i am amongst those who do not really know what rights they have ie what they are allowed to do or not do etc. do they even get any kind of benefits and what kind of shelter do they get here….what kind of hostels do they have to go to and have to mix with what kind of people…etc?

    Allah has a plan and He is the best of Providers and Planners. Allah al Mustaan w al Wakeel.

    peace on our Beloved and all that follow him till the judgement day

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