One of the most common things that is overlooked when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers is the cultural trauma they experience after resettling in a new country. When they are transplanted from a place they understand and are comfortable in to a place that is completely foreign, the cultural adjustment can be extremely difficult. This trauma can have a very strong effect on someone’s mental health, leading to anxiety, stress, depression, and other mental illnesses. Often, even the most inviting countries will focus support on things like employment, childcare, and physical health, overlooking the mental health aspects of this type of drastic cultural shakeup.
There are also two sides to this issue; competing forces that can have a negative impact on a refugee’s mental health. While it is one thing for a person to experience dramatically different cultural practices when they move to a new place, it is another for the people who have lived there for some time to accept a newcomer. Or to put it another way, an asylum seeker may find it difficult to integrate into new culture and those around them may not accept the refugee right away. This type of situation can have a very negative impact on someone’s mental health. Cultural isolation can lead directly to depression and a whole host of other mental health issues.
One of the most positive things a refugee can do once arriving in a new culture is to build a support system. Asylum seekers will likely experience all kinds of trauma as a result of culture shock, and having the proper assistance in place to help cope can make a significant difference. While making friends and colleagues can take time, professional help in the form of counselling can give refugees an outlet to talk about their feelings and deal with the struggles that can come with dramatically changing your living situation.
It may an individual, a couple, or an entire family seeking resettlement; no matter if it is a single person or a group of people feeling the trauma of having to move to a new country, there is almost always a negative mental health impact. With few physical symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult to notice a mental health issue, especially when there are all kinds of stresses prevalent in someone’s life. With that said, seeking asylum in a new country is something that will take a huge toll on the mental health of even the strongest person. While it is easy for people to offer refugee’s financial aid, being a friend can be just as important. Whether you support them by listening to their concerns and lending a helping hand or by recommending a good counsellor, embracing newcomers is very valuable.
The first year of settlement is the most important time; it is a time when refugees are the most vulnerable and often the least comfortable. Things like language barriers, a lack of socializing, and stress from finding work and building a new home can lead to serious mental health issues. When these mental health problems go untreated they tend to build up and make settling quite difficult. Things like depression and anxiety can be very detrimental for a family trying to turn a foreign land into their new place of residence. Counselling is one type of treatment that can have a very positive impact, although it often goes overlooked in the process of resettling.
That is why having a positive discussion about the trauma asylum seekers and refugees experience during their first year of settlement is needed. Our March Mental Health Seminar aims to promote that discussion, with professionals offering mental health treatment tactics, counselling information, and talking about the topic at large.
Anyone interested in learning more about this topic should attend the seminar; just talking about an issue can lead to a great change. In a world where refugees are very prevalent, it has never been more important to examine these issues.