2017 Presidential Initiative to Respond to the Mental Health Needs of Refugees
By: Elizabeth Carll, PhD, President
As forced migration due to wars, conflict, and persecution worldwide continues to unfold, the number of people displaced within their country or having fled internationally has reached more than 59.5 million—the highest level ever recorded, according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Refugees and migrants face dire and uncertain futures. Lebanon has the highest number of refugees per capita, hosting more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees. The United States is the world’s top resettlement country for total number of refugees. In Kenya, with the anticipated close of the Dadaab Camp, many Somali refugees worry about deportation and may feel they have no alternative than to return to their homeland to dire and sometimes dangerous situations.
In September 2016, world leaders convened at UN Headquarters for the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants to address the challenges of this worldwide crisis. Also participating in the summit were refugee support and advocacy organizations, refugees describing their experiences and civil society.
Migration for all reasons including economic and environmental/climate factors is a global phenomenon with approximately 244 million international migrants in 2014, according to the UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs. This large-scale global migration is anticipated to continue for many years.
Mental health and psychosocial responses are increasingly important components of programs for crisis-affected migrants seeking asylum and refugee resettlement. There is a great need for these services and often the demand for mental health professionals far exceeds the supply. To help meet these needs, I have recommended the development of a Refugee Mental Health Resource Network to develop a database of volunteer psychologists, within the US and globally, to help fill the need for evaluations and support services. We need your help to accomplish this humanitarian goal. This is an interdivisional initiative and all are welcome. Due to increasing needs, it is also a multi-year initiative. In order to help support the creation of the database and related activities, an APA CODAPAR grant proposal was submitted and approved in December 2016.
If you have experience working with refugees and have also conducted evaluations, such as asylum evaluations, we especially need your skills. Due to a computer problem with both incoming and outgoing emails for approximately six weeks, emails from interested members sending information regarding their desire for participation in the network database may not have been received. If you have not received a response, please resend your email, as we may not have received all communications.
Training will also be offered to familiarize psychologists who are experienced in working with trauma and interested in volunteering, who may not have experience and specialized skills working with refugee and migrant populations. If you are interested in volunteering and would like to be included in the database being created, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.