Experts Concerned About Mental Health of Refugees in the US

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Feb 11, 2016 04:30 AM EST

RIGONCE, SLOVENIA - OCTOBER 23: Migrants are escorted through fields by police as they are walked from the village of Rigonce to Brezice refugee camp on October 23, 2015 in Rigonce,, Slovenia. Thousands of migrants marched across the border between Croatia into Slovenia as authorities intensify their efforts to attempt to cope with Europe's largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo : Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images )

Refugees from Syria who are seeking asylum in the United States are faced with many problems like securing homes and jobs. However, experts warn that many of them could develop mental health problems as well. The alarming thing is they could be in denial about this too, Fox News reported.

Welfare organizations dealing with refugees say that it is hard to assess the impact of the refugee's traumatic experience for now. However, the experts acknowledged that this should be monitored since some of the symptoms don't appear until months or years later.

One expert noted that refugees usually experience the "honeymoon phase" in their first year of living in a new country. "It's only about two years later or so when there's a mental health crisis," Harvard psychiatry professor Richard Mollica said. "It's at that point that reality hits and they really need a lot of mental health care."

Some 100 refugees have settled in Massachusetts since the U.S. took them in from Syria beginning 2011, and a few have expressed they do not have any time to assess their mental state with jobs to secure and families to help out. They also have physical wounds to consider as victims of war and it's healing from these conditions that becomes the priority over mental wellness. They won't be able to move and fend for their family if they are physically ill.

Some refugees have gone to counseling in the U.S. following bouts of sleeplessness but they don't return to the doctors after the first visit. Apart from their trauma, adjusting to a new environment, new culture and language barriers could also trigger mental health problems and it's the same concern for other welfare organizations in Europe.

Refugees in other countries actually arrive to their new homes in good health, but then they develop depression months later. "The past comes back, the present is difficult, and the future is uncertain," said psychologist Pina Deiana via The Guardian.

When mental health problems are not addressed, it can also lead to physical problems. Those with children have more challenges as their mental state may affect the well-being of the rest of the members of their family.

The World Health Organization has created a guideline that outlines how the mental and psychosocial needs of refugees should be handled by those who deal with them. Also, there are government websites dealing with refugee resettlements that offer programs that promote emotional wellness. Screening refugees who are still seeking asylum have also changed over the years, as more is being done to address potential mental health issues.

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