Refugees are five times more likely to have mental health needs than the UK population and are far less likely to access medical care or mental health services. Often the processes of seeking safety - the journeys themselves, the threat of deportation, housing problems, language barriers and legal battles - are deeply traumatic. The pandemic has only increased these issues, placing already vulnerable communities under even more emotional and psychological stress. For many, sharing stories, exploring creative ways of expressing themselves and collaborating with others has been a vital way of navigating both the experience of seeking asylum and living with the impact of Covid.
This project stands in solidarity with all who are experiencing mental health difficulties and are having difficulties accessing needed treatment and health care. If you or someone you know needs help, please follow the links below:
“Taking care of others during Covid-19 is the best way to take care of oneself. When lockdown happened, first of all I had feelings of anxiety and a lack of control - just as I had felt when I was still fighting for my refugee status. However, unlike others who are still fighting for their rights to remain in this country and with whom I empathise, I was able to tuck into work and increase my hours. I started to cover many extra shifts as many staff continued to call in sick. Caring for all those who needed me meant I had to be strong and there for them. I felt a strong sense of responsibility. Caring for others was a way of giving back to my community. In the process, the attention on myself and my own health faded. During this time, I also volunteered, making calls to check in with asylum seekers who have particularly struggled through this process. Many have had to deal with their mental health. Sometimes, taking care of others is the best way to take care of oneself. That has been the most important lesson that I have learned through this trying time.”
02: I Will Come Back, a poem by Selina, a 75 year old refugee who has spent over 18 years of her life in the UK. For a long time, she was homeless, surviving only on the support she received from local charities in Swansea. She has recently won her legal battle to stay in this country, although during this period her physical and mental health has deteriorated dramatically.
03: Niloha, a Venezeuelan refugee living in Wales, describes how exercise has been beneficial for her mental health during lockdown.
05: A nurse, who has been working in the UK for 18 years, recounts her experience of workplace bullying and racism and its effects on the mental health of staff.
Let me live today
Let me see the world
Let me cherish this moment
Let me feel valued
Let me be me
Allow me to be me!
06: Let Me Live Today, a poem by a young person who is a failed asylum seeker, and has been waiting 8 years, alongside her mum, to gain her status in the UK. Although she has grown up in the UK, she has missed out on her studies, work experience and on making friends.
I'm thinking, thinking so hard.
Someone just told me,
“This is the only life, so live this life”.
Ok I got it
This is the only life.
My eyes close
Tears roll down
I am wondering,
I wish to ask, humbly.
If this is the life, the only life,
The one and only chance,
How I should lead it?
How does one live a life ?
I want to scream
Hold people's collars and
Scream the life out of them
Tell me what it is,
Tell me what is it you call a life?
07: Poem on Life, by Maria Shafayat, a refugee from Pakistan.
08: I Am My Own Psychologist, by a female asylum-seeker describing her mental health and the ongoing problems she has experienced in accessing services in the UK.
09: Majeda Khory, a Syrian Human Rights activist, recounts her personal journey and her fight against the human rights abuses, torture and rape of Syrian refugee women on their journeys to safety and in detention centres.
10: Images from E, an asylum seeker who has been living in Wales for a year. They struggled with their mental health during lockdown, and felt that exchanging gifts, such as food, flowers, plants and cards, with other local people helped to lift their mood.