Henriette's Story

Mental Health Research


"They do not understand the problem I have"

Now you will hear some of the stories that Community Researchers in Birmingham collected about the mental health experiences of refugees in their communities. The stories are read by three of the community researchers who worked on the JRF Making a Difference Project.


Henriette’s story by Community Researcher Marciannc Uwimana from Rwanda

Before I came to the United Kingdom from Zimbabwe I was very active as a business advisor for different community initiatives such as women fellowship groups; AIDS Orphanage; community for disabled children, and a village women income generating project. When I arrived in the UK, I claimed asylum, which was a very traumatic situation, as people think that being asylum seeker, you are associated with the crime. My reasons for seeking Asylum were not taken genuinely. I had to go to court for the first time.


The asylum system and the way I was treated as a criminal made me feel very depressed. When I became a refugee in this country I developed very low self esteem, which I never used to have. I used to be very confident and look forward to the future. Being a refugee made me feel down morally. I did not feel I can do anything anymore. I experienced stress and depression. I felt emotionally sick, depressed and some times angry, because I knew I could give much to this country but they would not let me.


After getting my indefinite leave to remain, I tried to look for a Job, but getting work was a problem. Employers will not employ refugees to do good jobs. They would rather have refugees to do cleaning jobs.


In this country there is racism, which reminds me of apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid was much better because the situation was Black and White. People knew about it, you could choose to accept and survive or choose not to accept and get arrested. But the racism here is killing people inside, it is hidden and it makes me feel emotionally sick.


When I had the problems of depression, I went to see the counsellor. I only went one time because I could not see how it was helping me at all. The counsellor was asking me to talk about my background and if I had a happy childhood, but my problems are caused by being a refugee.


The experiences my children have had are very upsetting for me. My son experienced racism in his school. He was sent home because he hit the boy, who called him racist names. Instead of his school punishing both the boys, it was my son who was punished alone. I had to complain to the teachers about the racism my son was subjected to. After that the teachers decide to do some thing about it.


To get over all this stress and depression, I got support from my church which is very supportive up to now, and also My Time and the Zimbabwe community, which in Birmingham. Now I feel better because I have friends and I am working and studying to try to find a way to use my skills here in Britain.