Refugees and Mental Health Issues

Refugees and Mental Health Issues

Many refugees are resettled in the United States because of persecution based on political opinion, religion, or race in their home countries. Refugees often arrive in the United States and Canada strongly affected by war or political conflicts.

They cannot or do not want to return to their homes, but every day they have to face their memories and fears and find the strength to carry on with their lives. Refugees face many challenges and extreme changes, including in diet and lifestyle, during resettlement in the United States. Sometimes all of these changes are very difficult, and refugee may fall into depression or an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

PTSD in Refugees

Refugees are often given a diagnosis such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This emotional disorder refers to mental problems and physical symptoms that affect refugees’ everyday life, including the following:

•           Chronic fatigue symptoms

•           Motor difficulties and anxiety

•           Chest pain and stomach problems

•           Sleeplessness and nightmares

•           Strong memories or dreams about past traumas

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a reaction to terrible memories and traumatic experiences that can even lead to suicide if not treated. Deep inside, many refugees feel in danger—even if they are not in danger anymore.

The mind reacts by creating strong emotions that may lead to a decrease in self-control. This is the main reason why some refugees fall into drug or alcohol addiction. Looking for a form of self-medication, they begin to take drugs and alcohol in order to forget painful past memories and deal with the physical symptoms of trauma.

Trauma in refugees may be related to war events and political or religious persecution, such as the following:

•           Violence perpetrated against family members and loved ones

•           Sexual violence and torture

•           Genocide

•           Religious persecution

•           Experiences that were simply perceived as life threatening

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder normally reflect personal backgrounds and cultural influences, and this is often true for refugees who come to the United States from all over the world. It is particularly important to take into account cultural differences.

Mental Health Treatment Options and Detoxification Programs for Refugees

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder often first impact relationships with family and friends, so counseling and therapies on a one-to-one basis or in a group can be very helpful to regaining an emotional balance and personal strength.

Modern medicines to treat anxiety and depression may also be prescribed in order to fight depression and sleep problems. If the refugee has been struggling with a drug or alcohol dependency, medically supervised detox and rehab services may be a good solution.

If Western biomedicine does not suit the cultural beliefs of a refugee, alternative medicine may give better results. Help can be easily provided by several natural rehabilitation and detoxification programs. In fact, there are a number of programs available in the United States that specialize in alternative therapies and treatments.