Recently, I have done some studying about mental illnesses in the Refugee communities and what they have been facing. I learned about the difficulties that face people seeking refuge or asylum. How difficult the journey is leaving their homes, and how difficult it can be to become stable in another country. In the United States, we have started learning about soldiers returning home from war with mental illnesses related to experiencing traumatic events, illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Refugees live with a lot of these traumatic experiences as well, but have a very difficult time to find proper assistance.
Living through horrible events leave people with wounds and scars that are left unseen but very real. Judith Lewis Herman describes what we experience after a traumatic experience as “After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment.” Individuals that seek refuge and asylum experience traumatic events and have stressors like the fear of imprisonment, loss of family members, physical assault and so much more. It’s a severe problem for refugees and Wired Magazine quoted a study that claims that one in three refugees fleeing war torn-countries has a form of PTSD or depression. Prolonged exposure to trauma can have serious effects on mental health and the toll that those experiences could have on anyone would be devastating. It made me wonder, what kind of services are out there for immigrants and refugees?
After some research, I stumbled on a website for Community Legal Services and Counseling Center, and they schedule therapy appointments and counseling sessions for refugees and immigrants. Their mission is to combat the effects of “Traumatic experiences such as torture and abuse which can have profound and enduring effects on the human spirit. Valuing our clients' resiliency, determination, and dignity, we focus on empowering individuals to rebuild their lives and heal from the shattering impacts of trauma.” They also discussed that they were members of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) and International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), which were two organizations I didn’t previously know about.
The NCTTP is a United States based organization that aims to advance the knowledge, resources and technical capacities dedicated to taking care of torture survivors. The provide many different services like health, mental health, legal assistance and other support services to victims of torture. Unfortunately, the NCTTP centers only have enough space to help around 6,000 survivors at a time, which they admit as being a very small amount of the people that need help. The IRCT is an independent, non-profit organization based in Denmark. It serves as an umbrella organization for 144 independent torture rehabilitation organizations in 70+ countries. Their work is mainly in three areas, which are offering rehabilitation services, raising awareness of the issues among policy regulators and advocate justice for survivors.
My hope is to have informed you on the situation of mental illness of refugees and the people helping them combat these illnesses. For more on helping refugees,
The New York Times has released a great piece that is linked below. Sources follow.
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