By: Elizabeth Carll, PhD, Chair
Forced migration due to wars, conflict, and persecution worldwide has continued to grow. The number of people displaced within their country or having fled internationally has reached more than 59 million with some statistics even higher. This is the highest level recorded according to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The number of international migrants, defined as persons living in a country other than where they were born, reached 244 million in 2015 for the world as a whole, a 41 per cent increase compared to 2000.
Humanitarian emergencies, such as occurring in Myanmar, resulted in more than 650,000 refugees escaping to Bangladesh as of August 2017. The persecution of the Rohingya included the murder of adults and children, rape, and villages being burned, with the number of refugees anticipated to continue to rise.
The U.S. was the largest host country of refugees until recently when government policies changed and limited the number of refugees entering the U.S. There was a significant need for asylum evaluations and other related evaluations. With the current focus on possible deportation of undocumented immigrants, with some having lived in the U.S. for many years, there has been an increased need for evaluations focused on preventing deportation.
Mental health/psychosocial support are increasingly important components of programs for crisis affected migrants seeking asylum and refugee resettlement. There has been a great need for these services and often the demand far exceeds the supply of mental health professionals. To help meet these needs, I had proposed the development of a Refugee and Mental Health Resource Network to develop an interactive database of volunteer psychologists and mental health professionals, within the US and globally, to help fill the need for evaluations and support services. As a result Division 56 and cosponsoring Divisions 35, 52, and 55 obtained a CODAPAR grant from APA to subsidize this project, in part. Other Divisions and state associations have since joined as collaborators.
We have been gathering the names of psychologists and mental health professionals interested in volunteering to provide services to refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. Some volunteers have experience working with refugees, and others have trauma experience.
In addition, there has been a significant interest by students who would like to receive training and volunteer to be able to help in some way. Also included are psychologists who are interested in conducting research with refugees, migrants and (IDPs). We are also gathering a list of non-profit refugee focused organizations that provide services or information.
To begin to meet the demand for training, 6 free webinars have been developed and provided in 2017 addressing various aspects of services for refugees including asylum evaluations. These webinars will be available for volunteers and additional webinars are in the planning.
The interactive database is now open for volunteers to enter their information. The application process should take about 10 to 12 minutes. Please go to:
Volunteer Sign-up: Refugee Mental Health Resource Network
Please email us at RefMHResNetwk2@optimum.net for any further information. We look forward to your participation in this timely pro-bono humanitarian project.
The Steering Committee members include Elizabeth Carll, chair; Betsy Gard, vice-chair; Carl Auerbach, vice-chair; Brigitte Khoury, Elaine LeVine, George Rhoades, Vivian Ballah-Swaray.