Any migration process starts with a period of “movement”, arrival and settlement in the host country. The duration, as well as the particular circumstances of the trip can have a major impact on people’s mental and physical health. Many migrants and refugees will experience some form of distress such as feelings of anxiety and sadness, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irritability, anger and/or aches and pains (WHO, 2021), which poses refugees at a higher risk of developing mental health issues or addiction disorders.
In this regard, mental and psychosocial illnesses are a significant health problem particularly affecting newly arrived people. Specifically, refugees are prone to mental health diseases including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as substance use disorders like alcoholism and drug abuse in response to traumatic experiences (Pavli & Maltezou, 2017). The potential exposure to illicit substances, alcohol, violence and sexual abuse poses a particularly high risk to mothers, minors and unaccompanied children, making these groups even more vulnerable.
In addition, language difficulties, cultural and religious issues, racism and unemployment may further aggravate mental problems. Risk factors for mental illness in migrants and refugees also include age, gender, lower socio-economic status and lack of social support” (Pavli & Maltezou, 2017). According to the World Helath Organization, asylum seekers also tend to be at an elevated risk of suicide (WHO, 2015).
There is no doubt that refugees and migrants remain among the most vulnerable members of society faced often with xenophobia, discrimination, poor living, housing, and working conditions as well as with inadequate access to health services (WHO, 2021).