Displacement is only the first step for refugees, as after they arrive in the host country they have to start the legal process of asylum-seeking to be granted the UN identity card, then to find work, and for children and young adults to continue their education. Hence, it is a long journey that can take years until they are back to a life that can be called normal.
A key factor in integration and adaptation is “Mental Health”. It is very important to pay attention to the refugees’ psychological state because it will affect their integration in society, ability to work, or even learning a new language. For adults and children who are forced to seek asylum, mental health and psychological problems are expected to increase as well, such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, among others. They suffered many losses; they lost their home, money, way of life, safety, jobs, and even more devastating the loss of loved ones. Most of them, if not all of them, will likely have gone through a lot of these losses and subsequently experienced great grief.
The pain of loss aggravates with the disturbing experiences and traumatic events including war, torture, violence, threats, and death. Many common symptoms can be found among refugees, some of them are physical symptoms such as headache, muscle tension, malaise, high blood pressure, and changes in appetite or sleep. Many of them have bad quality of sleep as they either have insomnia or nightmares, restless sleep, and waking up screaming.
Another symptom is becoming extremely vigilant with a constant fear that something bad might happen to them. Also, feelings of hopelessness that may lead to suicidal thoughts are common. In addition to sadness bitter thoughts and images and bad memories, feeling powerless and weak.
Young adults who have experienced violence are more vulnerable to long-term psychological effects than adults who experienced the same situation. Many children and adolescents who have experienced war, shootings, bombings, violence, or even witnessed the death of a family member are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention deficit disorder. And in addition to the symptoms mentioned above, children may also exhibit symptoms of fear, withdrawal, crying, and bedwetting.
Besides violence and war, the fact that the daily routine or daily system of a person is broken exposes them to cumulative risk factors that harm their social development. The trips they take are dangerous, some of them travel alone, and they are at risk of being neglected and mistreated. What makes this matter even more complex is that most refugees are not likely to seek help with mental health problems, since they are focused on providing their basic needs and legalizing their presence in the host country. This is very dangerous because when a psychological problem arises as a result of trauma, this psychological problem will become chronic for the individual if it is not treated successfully.
As a result, many organizations that work with refugees in the host countries provide mental health support to asylum seekers, however, the hardships that they go through even after reaching the resettlement countries are making a big challenge for their psychological well-being.
Humanitarian Content Writer, Act for Displaced
Writer and social worker. Holding a Master’s degree in journalism laws and regulation, with more than 8 years of academic experience. I believe that real change comes from the field and not the office.