Bristol Mind is a local mental health charity. We support the rights & needs of people with mental health problems in Bristol & the surrounding areas. We aim to contribute to mental and emotional wellbeing and to reduce stigma and discrimination. We also work to reach harder to reach groups, people who are at greater risk of developing mental health problems while not being able to access support. Find out more about our services on our website.
Asylum seekers and refugees are more likely to experience poor mental health than the local population, including higher rates of depression, PTSD and other anxiety disorders.
The increased vulnerability to mental health problems that refugees and asylum seekers face is linked to pre-migration experiences (such as war trauma) and post-migration conditions (such as separation from family, difficulties with asylum procedures and poor housing).
Research suggests that asylum seekers are five times more likely to have mental health needs than the general population and more than 61% will experience serious mental distress. However, data shows that they are less likely to receive support than the general population.
Whilst working with other refugee agencies in Bristol we identified several stark concerns:
▪ there is a lack of resource available to charities & groups who work with refugees. This means there are currently no provisions available to provide emotional & mental wellbeing in the form of counselling
▪ NHS therapy has a very high threshold & the waiting list for refugees is very long. Subsequently refugees are not able to access vital mental health support when they need it
▪ Within some cultures there is stigma surrounding poor mental health & due to institutional racism and previous experiences, there is a mistrust of statutory mental health services.
In response to this and increasing pressures from COIVD-19 we decided to pilot a new service for refugees and asylum seekers called Mind Without Borders. This service includes free counselling sessions and a green space wellbeing group in Bristol. We are looking to extend this service and need your support.
Mind Without Borders makes a difference by equipping people emotionally to process trauma to help them have a more meaningful life. We do this through free counselling and the therapeutic benefits of providing a green space wellbeing group in a safe space.
"Many of the referrals we receive are from agencies who support Asylum Seekers & Refugees who are survivors of human trafficking and who often come to counselling in a state of anxiety and shame because of the horrendous circumstances and trauma they have had to endure."
"Part of the counselling process is to normalize in therapy the feelings and emotional responses the Client has had to unpleasant and distressing events. Grounding techniques are used to help the Client to think outwards and not to internalize what he or she is experiencing by detaching themselves from emotional pain. The therapeutic process plays it part in a bigger pictures of meeting basic needs of ensuring plans to specifically address hate crime against Asylum Seekers and Refugees." Jordan, Refugee coordinator.
Mustafa is a 50-year-old Asylum Seeker who escaped Bangladesh fleeing political torture. He has depression, mobility issues, anxiety, and a learning disability. He does not speak English very well and is very lonely and isolated. He had to leave Bangladesh suddenly because he was suspected to be a political dissident. He was pursued and threatened. He is in Bristol awaiting his asylum status decision living alone in a hotel uncertain of his fate. Mustafa finds it difficult to meet people as he has no family or friends in the UK. He can't sleep and has thought about taking his own life.
After being referred to Mind Without Borders Mustafa started counselling sessions. After 6 sessions the team started to see an improvement as he trusted the counsellor and opened up. The counsellor helped him to acknowledge his feelings and used the Green Space wellbeing group to help build his confidence. At this meet up he took part in cooking and did outdoor crafts with other refugees and asylum seekers. Mustafa attended 16 counselling sessions and received support from the team to collect evidence for his asylum application.
Mustafa’s overall mood and wellbeing has improved as well as his quality of life. His self-esteem and self- confidence improved and his anxiety levels have reduced. After his positive experiences at the Mind Without Borders he is more confident and is talking about becoming a chef. The team were also able to refer him to a befriending project for him to access as part of his contingency plan.
Farooq is a 29-year-old former soldier from Afghanistan who was conscripted when he was just 18. His brother and father were murdered by the Taliban and he was imprisoned and tortured. He was a political prisoner for some time before he was able to leave the country.
He is awaiting his asylum decision and has been separated from his wife and child who are now located in Pakistan. He speaks some English but when referred to Mind Without Borders he wouldn’t speak at all.
Farooq’s trauma and imprisonment left him deeply distrustful of services and officials. He is wary of people who are dressed in state uniforms. He is plagued by flashbacks and witnessed his family members murder. He displays symptoms of post trauma disorder being unable to talk being paralyzed with fear due to triggered memories. He keeps in touch with his family but can’t always reach them and runs out of credit to call them.
Attending Mind Without Borders Farooq has built his confidence. He went to 19 sessions with the counsellor. He would not speak in the sessions for 3 weeks staring into thin air. After the sessions progressed, he was able to talk and start to understand the challenges he was facing through separation and loss. In the last 4 session he showed visible signs of being more more confident and requested more sessions.
His mental health and wellbeing have improved, and he has became more open positive and hopeful.
Please help us continue this vital service by donating today.