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Moved by the Afghan Crisis: Everyone is Deserving of Help

For refugees, exposure to traumatic events such as war, violence, stress, loss and threat to their life or family is common. Losing loved ones, their homes, and living with the stress of not knowing what is going to happen next, all can have a huge impact on their physical and mental wellbeing. 

Having left their home country,  arrival at  a camp is likely to bring further psychological stress, with adverse living conditions including lack of adequate food, water or  necessities for living.  

Moving to a new country to resettle, which often means leaving loved ones behind and having to adapt to a new environment and new culture, puts refugees under significant further stress 

The hardship and traumatic experiences refugees are exposed to, puts them at greater risk of mental illness. Research suggests that 30% and 80% of refugees screen positive for posttraumatic stress disorder(PTSD), this being significantly higher than that of the general population (8%).[1] These individuals may also be at higher risk of developing symptoms of anxiety and/ or depression. 

Refugee children are often at higher risk of developing a behaviour and emotional problems.[2]  Some may have potentially lost parents or family or not be able to receive the support they need due to their caregivers being under immense stress themselves. Rates of suffering from disorders such as PTSD (50-90%) and/or major depression (6-40%) are much higher than that of adults.[3]

It is not an inevitable fact that refugees will develop psychological illnesses but their exposure to multiple stressors puts them at higher risk. Discrimination and stigma add to the their difficulty, making  it more difficult for individuals to reach out for help. 

However, with  support,  individuals who’ve faced the most extreme hardships can start to make sense of their experience and, in some way, recover.

It’s very clear that refugees are deserving of help. What’s sometimes less obvious is that we, and those around us might really need help too. It can be hard to recognise this when on the surface we “have it all” or “everything’s fine”. Sensing that we are better off than others can be one of the things that makes it hard for us to ask for help. However, we believe it’s not helpful to rank suffering. Rather, it’s important to build each individual’s ability to seek help and make use of it. This experience, after all, is often what enables us to continue to help both ourselves and others.  


[1] Mental Health of Refugees and Torture Survivors: A Critical Review of Prevalence, Predictors, and Integrated Care – PubMed (nih.gov)

[2] Mental Health in Refugee Camps and Settlements (uniteforsight.org)

[3] Mental Health | Refugee Health TA

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Emily Spillane

Level 3 Personal Trainer