Breaking the stigma of mental health among Irish ethnic minorities
2018-10-01 11:41:30 -


By Emmanuel Njume Sone


Ireland’s immigrant population in 2011 was 12 per cent of the total population, according to the Central Statistic Office (CSO).

With such a significant presence of migrant communities in Ireland, good data on ethnic minorities’ mental health and support services are very important.

On this World Mental Health Day, Cairde wants to put some focus on its work in migrants’ mental health.

It is known that migrants and refugees are 10 times more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorders. Some ethnic minority members started their lives in Ireland as asylum seekers and were exposed to considerable stresses, making them a high-risk group.

We have also noted that many adults of minority backgrounds are admitted in mental health inpatient units more than would be expected by their presence in the population statistics.

Flac’s Child Reporting Project also shows a number of migrant children in foster care that came to the attention of Tusla and social workers as a result of mental health concerns with their parents.

Cultural differences in using mental health services, and migrants’ attitude towards mental health, should be made more of a concern within migrant communities. This is because many migrants agree that stigma and shame, together with isolation and exclusion, are the most challenging barriers they face when dealing with mental health issues.

Cairde warns that this may impact directly on seeking help, or the lack thereof, which will contribute to further isolation.

We at Cairde fear that although many people may have experienced some form of mental health difficulties, they may have no means to seek help due to their concerns about stigma.

In addition, seeking professional support may be uncommon for some people preferring traditional, spiritual and faith leaders instead.

These cultural issues may all contribute to the escalation of symptoms, making migrants present at mental health services only at a crisis stage.

Cairde’s dedicated programmes look into migrants’ mental health in a comprehensive approach. We support individual cases in our Health Information and Advocacy Centre. We work with community groups. We support community leaders and develop information materials, and do research and policy work in migrants’ mental health.

We have also developed a multilingual guide for ethnic minorities in Ireland, to support a journey to good mental health. A pathway to being well, it provides information for communities and includes workshops to understand basic facts of mental health.

Emmanuel Njume Sone is health advocacy officer with Cairde.

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