Liz'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.


The story of Liz read by Suzanne Bisani community researcher from Rwanda

I am 28. I came here from Burundi as a refugee. I’m married and I am going to have a baby very soon. Since I arrived in Britain 5 years ago I have suffered from mental health problems. In my country I experienced terrible things. What I saw and what happened to me I will never forget. I can not talk about these problems especially to a white man like my doctor. I am not the only woman to have these problems. They are very common for women in the war zone in Burundi.


The Government did not believe I was a refugee. They wanted me to tell them what happened to me. This was very hard for me. I cannot talk about my problems. Eventually I got my refugee status but I have never been happy since I arrived in Britain.


For the first two years, I was alone and ignored by the wider community because I am black, a refugee and a woman. All this time I was so lonely and all I could think about is my problems and the war. This was the most difficult period of my life. During these two years I lived with my own problems. I could not sleep, I could not think and I did not want to eat.


I did not go for help to my G.P. even though I knew I had a mental problem. I did not trust my G.P. for he is white and male and he will not understand. In my culture you do not tell any man your problems. At this time I could not trust anyone. I could not speak English to talk to people and I did not have much chance to learn although after a while I did some very basic English at college. All this time I remained on benefits with nothing to do.


After 2 years I was contacted by the Burundi community and they gave me support. They helped me to learn how to forget about my past experience in Burundi. I made some friends who understood me, my culture and my experiences because they have had the same experiences. They helped me to understand British culture and assisted me to access services.


Finding a community, having help, friends and people to talk to has made me feel better. I think I have finally succeeded in moving out of the past and I am now looking forward to be in workplace orientation training. I am also looking forward to being a mother. My community helped me to gain confidence and because I feel better I will be able to look for work when my baby grows a bit.