Australian servicewomen 180The UK should be more than just a place of refuge for people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and actively help families to deal with trauma and its impact on their mental health and wellbeing, the Mental Health Foundation has said.

The Foundation is calling for greater awareness of the mental health needs of refugees, in particular those who have experienced trauma.

Foundation research suggests that there is a high prevalence of mental health problems among those fleeing persecution and violence. This is unsurprising given the significant emotional turmoil they may have endured in their need to seek refuge and the process of trying to get to a safe haven.

For more than 5 years, the Mental Health Foundation has led a programme of work with asylum seekers and refugees, which utilises partnerships involving community groups and affected individuals that inform solutions to help with wellbeing, and the devising and delivering of community programmes using workshops, arts events and advocacy.

Amal Azzudin, community development facilitator for the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The Amman project we recently ran in Glasgow has had a transformative effect on the lives of female asylum seekers and refugees. The feedback from those involved has been that the support provided has been empowering and has had a positive impact on their mental health."

Jenny Edwards CBE, CEO of the Mental Health Foundation, added: "There is a need to give active and urgent consideration globally to the mental health problems faced by refugees fleeing appalling circumstances. We need to ensure that there is mental health support for refugees, some of whom will have experienced the loss of loved ones, experienced violence, abuse or torture. The international obligations the UK has entered into extend beyond being a place of refuge for refugees to, for example, the obligation to offer rehabilitation for victims of torture.

"We know from our work with refugees that there is a high prevalence of mental health problems amongst those fleeing persecution and violence. Our experience is that facilitating peer support, which explores mental health, self-management and stigma, achieves positive progress and produces first-hand information that can be incorporated into training for key organisations like the UK Border Agency."