Mental Health

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.


Refugees and Mental Illness by Community Researcher Fatima Yvette Happy from Cameroon

Being a refugee is a condition of extreme stress for any person as it is associated with many traumatic experiences. In Africa the problems of children-refugees disunited from their parents is a common separation problem during early adolescence. In the population of adolescent refugees, this problem is severe, because of its sudden appearance, with long-lasting effects, and incapability to anticipate further development.


This is further compounded by the fact that adolescents were forced to leave their parents in dangerous areas, so they continue to worry about them and regret about their own escape. They often feel guilty because they tend to assume that they did not fulfil their parents' expectations. Separation from parents, practical difficulties in communication and development of psychological problems, can make adolescents emotionally distant and detached.


Facing death is a real issue in the world of refugee-children. Exposure to mass deaths suddenly becomes an experience of reality. Most adolescents do not talk about death willingly or freely; instead, they talk about other dramatic experiences they have had. One gets the impression that they suppress these concerns deep inside.


Refugees are rooted out of their homeland, suddenly tossed to completely unexpected circumstances, in some distant and different part of the country. This exposes them to new encounters, and discovery of entirely new self-experiencing or self-concept.


They find themselves reduced to their sole body. They wear clothes which they did not choose. They are exhausted by dramatic travels and changes of living places. All these events and experiences increase their anxiety. Loss of life projects and anticipation of uncertain future often are cause of depressive crisis.