Mental Health Resources for Refugees in Boston
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
In my life I have gotten to know and lived around various refugees and refugee communities in Austin and Boston, the two cities I’ve lived in. In Austin, one of my closest friends was born in the Congo in a refugee camp, and moved here when she was in middle school. As we got close, I learned that she was struggling with various depressive episodes and bouts of self-harm, but didn’t know how to talk about it or get help because it wasn’t something anyone discussed in her family or culture. Although many cultures of refugees in America think about and deal with mental health in different ways than we do here and that is okay, I realized that it might be a really nice idea to make resources more readily available for those who may need them and not be familiar with the idea that help for mental illness is readily available.
Most refugees go through some sort of traumatic experience before or on their way to the United States. The very definition of a refugee is “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.” Refugees leave their homes because the conditions in their home countries are too dangerous or inhospitable for them to survive, much less live without fear and constant anxiety. Most refugees come directly from experiencing or being in constant danger of a violent experience of some kind. Intense experiences such as these can often lead to mental health issues such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression, as well as a plethora of other mental illnesses that come from trauma.
The process of coming to the United States is also not an easy one. It’s difficult enough to leave one’s home and travel thousands of miles away to a country in which the customs and language may be unfamiliar, but refugees also may encounter hostility and a severe lack of resources upon their arrival in the US, including not only basic ones like housing and clothes, but also human resources like comprehensive health care and social workers to connect refugees with resources and explain how to complete basic important tasks in the United States such as job hunting, language skills, and banking. All of this can take a severe toll on mental health.
- Create a poster in English and Arabic – the primary first language of refugees in Boston – explaining the importance of seeking help for mental illness after trauma, describing the symptoms of such illnesses with clear possible symptoms so that refugees may easily recognize them in themselves and/or their family members
- Posters will have both English and Arabic on them (instead of two separate posters)
- I will get an Arabic-speaking friend of mine to help translate the poster
- Poster will have extensive and varied list of resources to help refugees get in touch with specialized mental health agencies and programs, such as http://www.childrenshospital.org/centers-and-services/programs/o-_-z/refugee-trauma-and-resilience-center-program/overview (mental health care for refugee children in Boston) and http://www.bcrhhr.org/services (Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights).
- Poster will be posted all around areas that refugees might see it – in highly refugee-populated neighborhoods in Boston, in refugee resource centers, maybe even in airports or other connective spaces (social work), such as immigration offices
Think about how refugees are treated in your community – or if there aren’t any, why that is. Are they invisible? Ignored? Scorned? Or welcomed? These are all people just like us, who have stories, hopes, dreams, and pain just like we do. Think about ways in which you can approach those in your community with an open mind. Try volunteering at your local center for refugee assistance if you have one, or donate to a refugee assistance program if there isn’t a center near you. IRC, link below, is a great one, and many cities have set up charities of their own – try finding yours online!