Refugees and asylum seekers, while far from a homogeneous group, experience some types of health problem at a higher frequency than other groups in society. Aside from re-existing chronic health conditions or those related to the prevalence of infectious diseases in their countries of origin, they are frequently exposed to traumas resultant from flight, family separation or even abuse and torture. As a consequence, they frequently experience a variety of mental health problems related to their experiences at home as well as in the host country, while dealing with the complicated conditions of an enforced exile.
Destitute asylum seekers face an additional set of problems related to being refused asylum and to the destitution that almost invariable accompanies refusal. In relation to mental health particularly, as one professional in Leeds put it, ‘If they didn’t have any mental health needs when they arrived then once they’re destitute for a while they will have.’
PAFRAS’s Mental Health Assessment and Referral Service was established to provide a recovery-orientated service based on the partnership with service users, volunteers, statutory organisations and communities in Leeds. The core aims of our work are to:
- facilitate service users’ access to relevant agencies and appropriate services,
- facilitate their inclusion in social life, and
- enable them to retain or regain an ordinary life, rather than isolate them through exclusive involvement in specialist Mental Health Services.
We offer the following services to support the immediate mental health needs presented by our clients:
- Weekly drop-in Sessions (screenings, assessments and referrals to appropriate mental health
and support services),
- Crisis analysis with referral and follow up to appropriate support services,
- Psycho-education and information about different available services in Leeds,
- Holistic support of service users, while they wait to access specialized care from the NHS or voluntary sector organisations such as Solace.