UK Council for Psychotherapy and the British Psychoanalytic Council have teamed up with the Refugee Council and Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) to support this year’s World Mental Health Day.
World Mental Health Day aims to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to combat stigma around mental health.
Drawing on this year’s theme of Psychological First Aid, UKCP, the BPC, Refugee Council and MSF wanted to use this opportunity to draw attention to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe and the hundreds of thousands of adults and children fleeing war-torn homelands.
Many will have faced hardships and have suffered acute distress and trauma. They will need psychological first aid from mental health professionals and the support of any family and friends they have left.
As therapists, we try to help people to feel connected to others again, to feel grounded and supported, despite the experiences they have suffered since leaving their homes.
Therapists can give psychological first aid.
Janet Weisz, CEO of UKCP said:
“Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been making the hazardous journey via the Mediterranean Sea and land routes to seek sanctuary and new hope in Europe after facing danger and turmoil in their countries of origin.
“Such traumatising experiences and crowded conditions are unquestionably stressful, and when they reach Europe they are met with more uncertainty and concerns about food, shelter, separation from their family, and even detention.
“As psychotherapists, we know that surviving such plights have a significant impact on mental health and it is important that those in need are given access to appropriate psychological help.”
Helen Morgan, Chair of the BPC said:
“It is hard to imagine the psychological stress and trauma experienced by children and adults who flee war, devastation and famine in their homeland and then suffer the dangers and deprivation of the long journey to safety.
“On reaching Europe these individuals need our help and support in repairing the mental as well as the physical damage caused by such extreme experiences. The fostering of any family ties which still remain together with help from psychotherapists with appropriate experience and expertise will be crucial in any process of recovery.”
Dr Lisa Doyle, Refugee Council Head of Advocacy, said: “Refugees have often experienced trauma that most of us find hard to imagine and their distress and anxiety doesn’t end when they reach safety. Restrictive immigration policies often result in refugees’ separation from their families being prolonged which causes unnecessary additional stress and worry. It’s vital that refugees in the UK are reunited swiftly and safely with their loved ones and are given the specialist support they need in order to begin rebuilding their lives.”
Konstantinos Antonopoulos, Programmes Policy & Advocacy Adviser at MSF UK said:
“This World Mental Health Day, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams see the urgent need for appropriate emergency mental health care in the displaced and migrating populations we work with. Because of the traumatic events from which they are fleeing, and the often violent journeys from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, many people are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Globally, many people on the move suffer violence. This is often on top of the violence that caused them to flee home in the first place. MSF medical teams on board our three search and rescue boats, for instance, continue to treat and bear witness to the consequences of physical and psychological violence inflicted on those travelling through Libya.
“Patients describe brutal encounters with smugglers, border guards, and other predators. They have been detained, beaten with rifles, whipped with hoses, robbed, held for ransom, or sexually assaulted. We estimate nine out of ten of those we have rescued have endured some form of violence.
“We see the effects of violence on the mental health needs of our patients within Europe too. In August alone, MSF staff provided 169 mental health consultations on the Calais camp. Most of the patients that MSF teams see in the Calais camp have fled violence and war. They have nightmares, eating and sleeping disorders; they have difficulties concentrating and building a project because they find themselves in a constant state of “insecurity”.
“It is imperative that measures are put in place to ensure that the human rights of vulnerable people are maintained and at the same time adequate specialist mental health provision is available for refugees and migrants.”