Have you ever shifted a house before? What about relocating from one country to another? Most of us have at some point in our lives. I remember the small panic attacks and emotional breakdown I had a few years back when I had to leave the house I grew up in. But the relocations we do are somewhat our own choice. The case is not the same for the approximate 745,000 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in 2017 because of the violence happening against them. This minority group witnessed horrific violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar where their villages were burned to the ground. They were mercilessly tortured, raped, and then killed. This led them to flee Myanmar and seek refuge in Bangladesh. The unspeakable actions that they had to face traumatized them severely, leaving massive negative impacts on their mental health. But past trauma is not all that they have to worry about.
Relocating to a completely new country where you don’t have any control over your life is an unnerving predicament. They not only have the past trauma haunting them but now they also carry multiple other concerns. One of their biggest distress right now is the seeming unending uncertainty that they face. Living in a camp that is not their own, surrounded by people they do not know, lack of information about their own family’s future are just a few of their troublesome thoughts. Forced migrations require a person to adapt to multiple changes within a short period which might not always be possible for everyone. Even though their basic need for food, shelter, and clean water are somewhat met, their psychological needs remain mostly unfulfilled. Many patients of Médecins Sans Drontières (MSF) in Cox’s Bazar are clinically diagnosed with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, etc. There are children in the refugee camps who are suffering from autism and development disabilities but are not receiving adequate treatment or therapy.
These refugees require psychological and mental support from us. Conversations regarding mental health issues remain taboo in their conservative culture. This hushed topic needs to be spoken more often with the Rohingya refugees. This is the gap that must be bridged to make them feel safe and protected. Only food, clothing, shelter, and water are not enough for the people who have been separated from their families and have faced horrific violence. They need more counselors and psychologists to help them rebuild their trust in humanity again. But more importantly, they need kindness and hope from the local people. Because in the end, hope is the main asset they have to cling to.