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The psychic trauma experienced by refugees and migrants


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At The New Inquiry, Sophie Hoyle highlights an under-discussed aspect of the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe: the psychological trauma that refugees experience during their journey, and the mental health services they consequently need upon their arrival in Europe. Unsurprisingly, the mental health services provided to refugees by their destination countries are woefully inadequate. This is not only because these services are underfunded or nonexistent. It’s also because they carry a tacit, unacknowledged Western worldview. Here’s an excerpt from Hoyle’s piece:

Of the refugees fleeing conflict, it is likely a large number have psychiatric conditions from their experiences of conflict or of seeing people die in the process of traveling to Europe. As there is uncertainty of the refugees’ end destination, many governments cannot plan in the medium to long term for psychiatric healthcare for these groups, and governments do not want to make substantial investments into services within refugee camps that they prefer to see as temporary, and where the staff are on short-term staff contracts. There is little transitional or sustainable healthcare as refugees move between camps to their destination country. There are also psychological impacts of living in refugee camps themselves, in their isolation, and infrequent or lack of interaction with the outside world and their former support networks; bureaucratic processes of applying for asylum can take months, with no certainty, which can further lead to a sense of apathy and clinical depression…

There remains a great lack of self-reflexivity in and by the West as to the impacts of its (neo)colonial violence, in terms of its responsibilities in contributing to the current refugee “crisis” and falling short of providing a proportionate amount of aid in response. This is part of a wider lack of acknowledgement of sociopolitical inequalities and psychological damage of colonial violence, both in ethnic minority communities within the UK and on a global scale in former colonized countries. Partial, Western-centered psychiatric care for individuals’ symptoms both obscure and reproduce wider structural problems.

Image via The New Inquiry.