On Thursday 10 February 2022, NIHR Applied Reasearch Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS)  in collaboration with Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network (KSS AHSN) and Kent County Council, hosted a community of experience concentrating on migrant mental health. The focus was to present research, hear from those with lived experience, share experiences and identify the gaps in research regarding unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and female migrants.

The event was attended by an audience of 76 people from a wide range of organisations including local authorities, NHS Trusts, universities, commissioners and voluntary and community sector organisations. Three young migrant women also shared their personal stories of starting a life in the UK, their mental health needs and their journey to seeking support.

One young woman from Iraq said:

“For me sometimes I just needed someone to listen to me as a human not a psychologist, or a social worker, or any professional but just as a human with a genuine heart.”

Dr. Leanne Bogen-Johnston, ARC KSS, Starting Well, Children and Young People, Post-Doc and Sarah Newman, a student from the University of Sussex, presented key points from a mapping report looking into the emotional wellbeing and mental health support services for unaccompanied asylum seekers across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. This newly published report provides a high-level overview of key demographics and highlights the support services available in Surrey, Kent and Medway, Brighton and Hove, West and East Sussex and should be used to help support and inform implementation and future research.

During the event Patrick Nyikavaranda, ARC KSS Doctoral Researcher, presented his research into the mental health of female migrants and discussed the current inadequacies in research and support for female migrant mental health across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Followed by Rossana Leal, Founder and Director of the Refugee Buddy Project in East Sussex, who spoke about the support offered through the charity for refugees and the importance of campaigning and advocacy. Sega Habtom, Senior Counsellor at Nafsiyat, an Intercultural Therapy Service in North London, shared her experiences of working with female refugees and running a Women's group in Arabic, Amharic and Tigrinya.

The event concluded with breakout rooms to discuss the barriers to accessing mental health services, what would make it easier and how we could improve the mental health of migrants and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children across Kent, Surrey and Sussex. These ideas will be collated and shared in an event summary, along with other useful resources that will be made available soon.

Click here to download the Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children Mapping Report. 

For more information on this report please visit the Starting Well: Children's Mental Health theme page or the Primary and Community Health Services theme page. 

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