Migrant mental health
Vulnerable migrants (including refugees and asylum seekers as well as economic migrants, spouses and students) often experience considerable mental distress owing to extreme and often lengthy disruption to their lives.
Many will have faced oppression, war and torture in their country of origin and may be experiencing various mental health problems such as anxiety, stress and depression.
The Department of Health has identified post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, as the most common problem amongst asylum seekers and refugees and has reported that, because of these mental health issues, the risk of suicide is raised in the long-term.
Not only are their mental health needs greater than most, but migrants often face a number of obstacles accessing mental health services, including the language barrier, cultural differences, stigma, racism and confusion.
The situation is even worse for many irregular migrants, including refused asylum seekers and visa overstayers, who may be unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin and consequently might remain in the UK for many years.
They are not allowed to work, are not entitled to any welfare benefits and will be charged for most secondary healthcare treatment. NHS staff are confused by the complex policy concerning access to free healthcare for foreign nationals and, as a consequence, many migrants are wrongly denied primary and secondary mental health services, and their mental health deteriorates to the point of crisis.
What we're fighting for
- Appropriate and accessible mental health services for all migrants
- Policy-makers, commissioners and service providers to be aware of the key issues affecting migrants and the difficulties they experience in getting treatment for their mental health issues.
- Commissioners to engage more effectively with voluntary and community sector service providers and refugee communities in order to build sustainable relationships to inform needs assessments and service design and delivery.
- NHS managers and service providers to develop the skills and awareness of their staff by providing training courses on migrant mental health.
- Full entitlement to free secondary healthcare for all refused asylum seekers until the point at which they return to their country of origin.
What are we doing?
The Diverse Minds team at Mind are working with migrant communities, local Mind associations and mental healthcare commissioners and providers across England and Wales, in order to improve access to appropriate mental health support for all migrant communities.
- In 2008 we conducted research with refugee and asylum seeker community organisations to find out more about the mental health needs of these communities and the challenges they experience accessing mainstream mental health services. We published the findings in ‘A civilised society: Mental health provision for refugees and asylum'.
- In 2009 we trained local Mind associations and migrant community organisations to help them advocate on behalf of their refugee and asylum seeker service users. A full account of this training can be found in Improving mental health support for refugee communities - an advocacy approach
- In 2010 we began a project with Primary Care Trust mental health service commissioners in the south east of England to develop good practice in service commissioning for refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants.For further information on this project please email email@example.com
- Mind is a member of Still Human Still Here - coalition of more than 40 organisations that are campaigning to end the destitution of thousands of refused asylum seekers in the UK. The campaign calls for the UK government to provide free access to healthcare for all asylum seekers while they are in the UK.
- Mind is also a member of the Medact Health Entitlement Working Group – a network of health and migrant rights organisations that advocates for free secondary healthcare for all vulnerable migrants
- Visit the Still Human Still Here campaign to end the destitution of asylum seekers and find out how you can help.
- Be a Mind media volunteer.
- Become a Mind campaigner.
- Tell us your story