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Refugee Mental Health Issue


Many obstacles and barriers are faced by refugees who have to leave their countries to save their lives. One of the most frequent refugees health issues is mental health disorders. They may occur due to numerous factors, such as long-term stress, the experience of violence, social and economic barriers experienced in host countries. The purpose of this essay is to consider refugees as an at-risk group from the perspective of mental health issues.

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Refugees as a High-Risk Group

There are some groups of people that are disproportionately affected by many diseases. One of the groups commonly considered at-risk for the disease includes immigrants, such as refugees and asylum-seekers. It is no exaggeration to say that migration does not pass without a trace for any person. Experiencing severe stress, migrants are more prone to disruption in a new place. Therefore, this category of people needs additional attention to help them integrate into a host countrys society.

Worsening geopolitical instability in African and Asian countries and the ongoing hostilities of the countries of the Middle East have led to the fact that many of their inhabitants are forced to seek refuge and asylum in Europe. While much time has been spent praising or criticizing countries for the number of refugees they accept, much less focus has been placed on the health of refugees after entering a new country. However, some states have responded by making efforts to accommodate refugees, including the US. It is possible to note that, in 2018, the US accepted 22,491 refugees for resettlement (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2019). The country has one of the most extensive resettlement programs in the world.

Refugees and asylum-seekers in the US face various health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2014), in 2012, 49% of Iraqi refugees who had lived in the US during 8-36 months reported depression, and around 31% reported a need for further assessment for Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is possible to bear note that “more than 6,000 refugee adults and children in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, found 54% suffered from a ‘severe emotional disorder,’ including depression and anxiety” (CDC, 2017, para. 1). Furthermore, around one-third (38.3%) of Somali refugees resettled in the US reported depression (CDC, 2018). Therefore, medical staff needs to be able to ensure appropriate psychological assistance for immigrants that suffer from mental health disorders.

Mental Health and Refugees

Many migrants have experienced poverty and malnutrition, so they have various health issues that health practitioners need to address. Refugees have likely been exposed to hardships, such as war, violence, and other psychologically scarring situations. In turn, these experiences often impact the psychological health of refugees and may even lead to mental health problems. It should be noted that mental health issues of refugees may arise at one of three stages: pre-migration, migration, and post-migration (Priebe, Giacco, & El-Nagib, 2016). Numerous variables influence the development of mental illnesses.

During the pre-migration stage, refugees often leave their existing social support and networks. They may suffer emotional trauma from the war, natural disaster, or another event that is causing them to leave their home for safety. The migration stage can be long and arduous, with refugees possibly facing violence or poor living conditions along the way. Refugees might also be separated from loved ones, not knowing when they will be reunited.

The final stage is post-migration includes many different variables that may cause problems with mental health and refugees. According to Chen, Hall, Ling, and Renzaho, (2017), “post-migration stressors include stressors related to the asylum process and resettlement in the host country” (p. 218).

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Overall, these obstacles relate to difficulties adapting to a new social and cultural environment. It includes having to learn a new language and/or cultural practices, as well as possibly being faced with racism when attempting to access care. Many refugees will have difficulties with obtaining an education, employment, and housing, which may affect their mental well-being and ability to manage illnesses. As a result of these factors, mental health outcomes are poor among refugees.

Barriers to Accessing Healthcare for Refugees

Several obstacles may slow down the assistance process and adversely affect health promotion activities and access to health services for refugees. One of them is the problem of the linguistic integration of immigrants. Due to migration, people need to learn and understand the language of the state in which they are going to live, in order to adapt to a new social environment and have a better chance to get necessary medical care. Without knowledge of the language, immigrants will not be able to explain what their health problems are. As a result, they will not be provided with timely health assistance. Another barrier is the problem of biases within health practitioners.

Prejudice is a complex set of emotions that have become attached to people and then manifest into the way they make decisions. All people have biases, and health professionals are not an exception. Individual differences of refugees may not be accepted by medical practitioners resulting in poor quality healthcare.

Who Can Contribute to the Problem?

Refugees, who have arrived recently, have multiple mental health issues; therefore, they require treatment from both general medical practitioners and specialists. It often takes months and sometimes even years to get positive outcomes for them due to various obstacles. There are some ways how to improve this situation and help immigrants with mental health issues to get necessary healthcare. One of the potential solutions involves training clinicians in culturally appropriate care, so they can better recognize the social determinants of health that may be contributing to mental illness in refugee populations. ​

The National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ) can make a positive impact on resolving the problem. It should be noticed that NAHQ is “the only organization dedicated to healthcare quality professionals, defining the standard of excellence for the profession, and equipping professionals and organizations across the continuum of healthcare to meet these standards” (“NAHQ Defines the Standard,” n.d.). The organization can contribute by providing comprehensive knowledge and health training on how to help refugees with mental health problems. It can be done with the help of making studies, workshops, conferences, and seminars.

The second organization that can help to resolve the problem is Mental Health America (MHA). It is “the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all Americans” (“About Mental Health America,” n.d.). The organization is aimed to work with policymakers on local and national levels in order to develop laws and policies to promote mental health. It can contribute to improving the mental health conditions of refugees through the improving policy-making process towards immigrants.


Displaced migrants experience numerous intractable economic, social, and psychological problems during the process of moving and adapting to a new place. Various barriers are faced by refugees and asylum-seekers that should be overcome through the help of health practitioners. Through the assistance of health organizations, such as NAHQ and MHA, the mental health conditions of refugees can be improved. It is essential to improve medical services and thus improve the quality of health care for refugees to facilitate their process of adaptation.

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About Mental Health America. (n.d.). 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Refugee health profile. Mental health. Web.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Syrian refugee health profile

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Refugee health profile. Mental health. Web.

Chen, W., Hall, B. J., Ling, L., & Renzaho, A. M. (2017). Pre-migration and post-migration factors associated with mental health in humanitarian migrants in Australia and the moderation effect of post-migration stressors: Findings from the first wave data of the BNLA cohort study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(3), 218-229.

NAHQ defines the standard of excellence. (n.d.). 

Priebe, S., Giacco, D., & El-Nagib, R. (2016). Public health aspects of mental health among migrants and refugees: a review of the evidence on mental health care for refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants in the WHO European Region. World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (2019). Resettlement in the United States

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