By: Hannah Heitz
Mental health in migrant populations requires a different approach than mental health within a native population. There is a legal distinction between migrants and refugees, which is why this article will refer broadly to these individuals considered to be migrants. Legally, refugees must have proof of the persecution or violence that causes them to leave their homeland-proof that is often hard to obtain. These individuals have often been forced to leave their culture and everything they have ever known, landing them in a new home with new customs, values, and expectations. Additionally, many have experienced inconsistency, displacement, and lack of healthcare during years in refugee camps. The Syrian refugee crisis has brought attention to this lack of care; the entire nation has fewer than one hundred psychiatrists. Compounding the lack of care, refugees often experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and are at greater risk for developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
After arriving to a new country, it is difficult for individuals of any age to adjust. Often recent migrants must learn a new language and adapt to a new culture, which adds to the time in transition during which they are unable to actively participate in their new community. Individuals with high levels of education are often considered over-qualified for many available jobs. Often medical or legal professional qualifications do not transfer, leaving this population jobless and unable to pursue their professional passion and area of expertise. Social capital may not transfer across nations, which has a huge impact economically and on self-identity, thus leaving a strong effect on mental well-being.
On February 3, 2016, a convention titled “Supporting Syria and the Region" was held in London with the hopes of increasing funding and the general support system that will increase the focus on economic opportunity and education initiatives for displaced populations. In order to improve the outcome of migrants and refugees alike, there is a need for increased cooperation throughout the EU and coordinated efforts, like the recent convention, is a step in the right direction. Although news coverage has begun to decrease, the effects of the crisis has rippled throughout popular media and inspired a recent pop song by MIA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIxxHmIPVN4
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