Refugees and mental health
displacement and suspension
Hundreds of thousands of migrants have crossed deserts, the snows of the Alps, or Balkan forests carrying the weight of similarly traumatic events, to find a new life in an increasingly inhospitable Europe. Once they get there – if they do – how do they begin to process the painful experiences that prompted their journeys?
Depression, PTSD, anxiety, self-harming, insomnia and panic attacks are among the growing mental health issues faced by asylum seekers who find themselves trapped in fear and uncertainty in Europe. In camps on the outskirts of major cities, or in safe houses, or on the pavements of European capitals, a million people await their destiny. Aid groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have been forced to step in to provide psychiatric care for this population of often highly disturbed people.
The sense of displacement and suspension are the main elements that come across when talking to any asylum seeker.
The uncertainty of their condition, the inability to work, to know if and when they will gather official documentation, to know if they could stay and settle or once again disappear in the shadow and continue their journey. Many have been talking about 'facing a second war', a physiological war, which is more complex than an actual one.
Commissioned by the Guardian and MSF I travelled to 4 different cities in Europe (Belgrade, Athens, Brussels and Gothenburg) focusing on the 'second stage' of the integration process. Rather than visiting camps I focused in big cities and met people that have been living in cities context for months or years