DEPRESSION AFFECTS MIGRANTS AS WELL


Date Publish: 
Friday, April 7, 2017

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is pleased to observe this week World Health Day 2017, and hail its importance to migrants worldwide. IOM remains committed to reducing the burden of migration-linked stressors and in addressing depression as a global problem. The theme chosen for World Health Day 2017, celebrated today (7 April), is: “Depression: Let’s Talk.” It culminates a year-long World Health Organization campaign.  

“We much support the choice of this theme” said Dr. Guglielmo Schinina, Head of the Mental Health, Psycho-Social Support, and Inter-Cultural Communication at the IOM. He continued: “Depression is, in many cases, a preventable and certainly a treatable condition that affects people of all ages, everywhere in the world. It can have devastating emotional, relationship and socio-economic consequence for millions of people, families, and communities at large. Depression affects migrants as well!” 

According to the WHO, “the total number of people living with depression in the world is 322 million.” This total constitutes a significant number within the world’s population". 

Though exact data about migrants’ health are not systematically considered for collection and analysis, according to a consistent body of research, migrants are more prone than nationals are to depression. This is due to several determinants impacting people who have to leave their home because of conflicts, disasters, land degradation, poverty, or who are driven by the hope of a better life abroad. For many migrants this implies compounding the distressful experiences of the past, and of their journeys, with separation from families and social networks. Insecurity linked to legal status or determination of same, various bureaucratic obstacles and other barriers encountered, and overall anxiety, often are linked to a prevailing negative connotation given to migrants and migration in current political narratives.  

For example, studies show that the widely-practiced detention of migrants—particularly the youngest—in an irregular situation has negative and lasting effects on migrants’ mental health. Anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation are commonly reported. Moreover time spent in detention is associated with the resulting severity of mental health conditions, which may persist even years after release.

Mental health is a need for migrants as much as it is a need for non-migrant. “To prevent migrants from developing depression, to ensure uninterrupted care for those suffering depression, and to enhance their capacity to access the supporting assistance they might need regardless of what their legal status could be, decisive actions must be taken,” said Dr. Davide Mosca, Director of Migration Health at IOM. 

“For millions of migrants with mental health conditions, much-needed specialist support is out of reach. Barriers linked to fear, isolation, language and cultural-issues, stigmatization or simply costs and public services entitlement linked to status, often remain unsurmountable,” Dr. Mosca added. “The risk of ‘self-medication’—including a recourse to surrogate substance use, including alcohol—can only aggravate a devastating health problem impacting on families and children.” 

IOM believes adopting a right-based and a public health common interest approach means the removal of these obstacles and the creation of diversity oriented and inclusive health systems. That would make migrants’ right to health, including mental health care, a reality leading towards the creation of more stable and inclusive societies, societies that “leave no-one behind.” 

IOM’s Dr. Guglielmo Schinina concluded that “Migrants are subject to stressors that have to do with the reasons for deciding to leave—including protracted, violent and other unresolved conflicts, the insecurity of their travel, and the adaptation to new social and cultural environments. There also are increasing levels of stigmatization and criminalization in host communities. Stress is a normal consequence of such environment. But protracted and toxic levels of stress can lead to depression. IOM, as a whole, is committed to facilitate safe and dignified migration processes and therefore to limit those unnecessary stressors migrants are subject to and that affect their emotional well-being.” 

Today, IOM is present in 42 origin, transit and destination countries worldwide with dedicated psychosocial support programs that facilitate migrants access to community based, focused and specialized mental health services, and has trained in the last 3 years 4,500 health, migration and humanitarian actors. We remain committed to reducing the burden of migration-linked stressors in confronting depression as a global problem.” 

For further information please contact: Dr. Davide Mosca, Director, IOM Migration Health Division, Tel: + 41 22 717 9358 Email: dmosca@iom.int