Royal College of Psychiatrists launches new resource to support the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees

Press release
12 April 2022

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is launching information aimed at health and social care professionals in the UK supporting asylum seekers and refugees with their mental health. Endorsed by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, it provides information, guidance and support to help deliver timely, high-quality care.

In 2020, 82 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced. In the same year, the UK received applications for asylum from over 37,500 people. Over 40% of those were women and children, and 8% were children who had arrived in the UK alone without a parent or guardian.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“Refugees and asylum seekers from Ukraine, Afghanistan or anywhere in the world where there’s a humanitarian crisis and ongoing conflict, might have faced the trauma of violence, danger, exploitation and loss of their loved ones.

“Harrowing experiences before, during and after migration can make them more likely to develop significant mental health problems like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These risks are even greater in women and children, including those that are unaccompanied, the elderly, disabled and LGBTQ+ people.

“Not only that, but once they arrive in the UK, uncertainty around housing, finances and employment paired with the challenges of accessing healthcare in a foreign country, can make existing mental health problems worse.

“For this reason, it’s absolutely critical that we do not medicalise their distress and instead help refugees and asylum seekers to come to terms with, and eventually recover from, the trauma they’ve experienced. There will also be some refugees and asylum seekers that may develop a mental illness, and for those we will need to identify the additional specialist mental health support that is needed.

“This resource looks at the basic principles of supporting the mental health of displaced people and is aimed at GPs and other health and social care professionals working with them. It looks at the experiences of mental disorders in asylum seekers and refugees, approaches to assessment, and when to triage to specialist support.”

A more comprehensive version of this advice can be viewed on the College’s page: Asylum seeker and refugee mental health.

For further information, please contact: