Webinar 3: Social Isolation or Integration ?

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    • #17379

      This forum has been set up to provide you the space for discussion in relation to 3rd webinar ‘Isolation or Integration?‘ presented by Alison Strang and neil Quinn. The webinar examines the patterns of social connections amongst refugees in Glasgow and considers the impact on their mental health, well-being and access to services.

      Please feel free to post your questions and interact with colleagues from the webinar

    • #17399

      Dear All, please feel free to use this space to post your questions and share your experience.

    • #17400
      Maleeka Salih

      We had a very good webinar with great participation and questions! I am happy to post some of the questions here, and invite all those who are interested in the forum to respond to them or to post new questions and comments of their own! Alison Strang and Neil Quinn who presented on the webinar will also be joining us on the forum and will follow up with any questions that might have not been answered during the webinar.


    • #17401
      Maleeka Salih

      Just  in case you are interested to go through the webinar again, click here to access the recording.

    • #17402
      Alison Strang

      Hello Everyone!

      Many thanks for such a lot of great questions through the webinar. I’m sorry that we could only answer a few during the webinar itself, as there were so many important questions and issues raised. I believe that Maleeka is going to post up the rest here. Please do add other comments too.

    • #17403
      Maleeka Salih

      Here is a list of the questions raised today. You can respond by commenting below (do mention which question you are responding to!)

      1) How significant has cultural perspectives on ‘mental health’ been on participants’ responses? Did you see a difference between different groups in this respect? Were some participants more receptive to the idea of being able to benefit from mental health support?

      2) I am interested in how the needs of those with ‘extra’ support needs may be helped, e.g. those whose existing family relations hips may have been lost or fractured, those with  social communication difficulties , including   perhaps  those with learning disability, or  on the autistic spectrum, or those for whom social constraints may prevent help seeking as an individual , such as where a woman may have to ask  her husband’s permission to access services.

      3) Would female asylum seekers would have responded differently to the idea of having a need to access mental health services?

      4) Have housing models for asylum seekers changed significantly given the transition to privatised housing?

      5) In the US, sources of poor mental health among asylum seekers might be expected to include the trauma caused during time spent in immigration detention. This is not mentioned here – is detention not a part of the UK asylum seeker’s experience?

      6) Have you looked at a 2-way integration process (looking at how to work with non-asylum seeking population?


      • #17408
        Alison Strang

        Wow! So many great questions – where to start….?

        1) How significant has cultural perspectives on ‘mental health’ been on participants’ responses? Did you see a difference between different groups in this respect? Were some participants more receptive to the idea of being able to benefit from mental health support?

        This is a very interesting and important question. This study did not deliberately set out to explore that, and it may be that Neil can add more insights from his earlier more extensive work on attitudes and experiences of mental health amongst refugees. However it was clear from our male participants that there was a general reluctance to talk about mental health problems. Iranian and Afghan participants each mentioned that in their own culture it would not be’normal’ to talk about mental health issues outside the immediate family. It was particularly apparent from some of the Iranian men that they had formed very close bonds with one another in compensation for the lack of family, and had ‘become like brothers’. Within these relationships they reported taking quite a lot of responsibility for one another’s well being, talking about problems, offering to help if possible (for example by lending money) and trying to distract each other into health activity. There did seem to be a culturally related reluctance to access formal services – the implication would be that this would be shameful as an admission of personal inadequacy.

    • #17404
      Maleeka Salih

      Here are some more of the questions raised during the webinar. Share your thoughts and experiences through the forum with the other participants.

      7) Is here any correlation between the skill levels people have (excluding English) and ability to make links/bridges/bonds and their mental health?

      8) Is there any correlation about length of LTR people receive and their abilities  to form bonds/bridges/links and their mental health?

      9) Is any education given to asylum seekers and/or  refugees on contacts and/or on coping with situations and/or on mental health in general?  Are there any self-help groups, discussion groups, or similar and, if so, what forms do they take?

      10) To what extent are GPs/Housing officers trained and aware of asylum seekers specific needs in Glasgow?

    • #17405
      Alison Strang

      One issue that I did note was that we misunderstood the question about ‘language skills’ social connections. Apparently the question was meant to be about ‘skills other than language’ and social connection. My response to that would be that, yes, other skills have a big impact too! I will list a few thoughts (don’t quote me as being comprehensive though please…):

      Cultural knowledge: it is clear that simple lack of understanding of how the host society works has serious impact on refugees’ capacity to access services – it is difficult to know where to go for what even if you know that an interpreter will be made available once you get there. Lack of cultural knowledge also leads to interpersonal misunderstandings that inhibit the forming of bonding/friendship relationships.

      Collquial language: refugees argue that skill in the understanding of local colloquial forms of language is at least if not more important than standard language training especially in their early days.
      IT skills: so much information and service can now only be accessed on-line. this is an advantage for some refugees (for example some told us how they found it easier to explore and access mental health services through the privacy on an aon-line search). However, for others who come from contexts where they did not become familiar with computers, on-line access can be a barrier. For example, the benefits system in the UK is now predominantly designed for on-line access – some new refugees have to negotiate this very soon after they arrive in the country and cannot get any financial support until they have succeeded. This is currently a significant factor in causing destituion. Also many FE colleges providing language training now rely on on-line applications.

      Work skills: it is evident in numerous studies that access to work supports integration in multiple ways. However, many refugees with high level work skills (eg professionals) struggle to become employed in their former profession – even after a number of years (Look up Emilia’s PhD and you will learn about this in the UK!). So we must recognise that there are additional barriers as well as work skills that inhibit refugees accessing work.

      I would be interested to hear of other people’s knowledge abou the role of skills?

      • #17409
        Maleeka Salih

        I noticed in your slide, that those who were feeling lonely mentioned connecting to online social media (e.g. Facebook, networking sites, etc) as a means of alleviating or managing these emotions. It noted for me the importance of current IT skills, not just knowing how to get online and use a computer, but also about stuff that connect people (whatsapp, Skype, etc!) at comparatively low cost!

    • #17406
      Maleeka Salih

      I would like to add a list of all of the questions raised before the webinar as well for those who work in this field, if you would like to contribute to the discussion! Feel free to share your experiences or thoughts on any of the questions by commenting below (but do indicate which question you are responding to!).

      1. What are the best practices which support the wellbeing of refugee women from the Middle East who are experiencing isolation upon resettling to a new city/town, as well as programs/best practices for refugee men from the Middle East? 

      2. What are best practices for psychosocial support for refugee men?

      3. What is UK policy on admitting Refugees to its shores; and where is it written-down, for general reference?

      4. What impact do you think the  imminent introduction of mandatory ESOL for people with low English skills will have on their other integration activities?

      5. How do you suggest we stop vulnerable people with low understanding of systems and services having their benefits sanctioned?

      6. The reality is that in a city like Glasgow with serious issue with poverty, physical and mental health problems and social deprivation, the numbers from the asyum and refugee community are small. How do we bring this particular group to the attention of mainstream services?

      7. How are others engaging their refugee communities in provider integration efforts?

      8. What type of networks do others have within their communities to promote refugee resettlement? (ie. Coalitions, Community Centers, etc.)

      9. How are others addressing the language barriers in mental health counseling? (Face to Face, language services, other?)

      10. What are the best suited methods to impact the mental health of the refugees in the asylum country?

      11. What can be the physiological helps to refugees facing challenges about well being and access to social services in the asylum country?

      12. In a country like Ethiopia where local integration is not possible, and the likelihood of resettlement is very vague, what will be the approach of different humanitarian workers to provide the best psychosocial supports?

      13. In a country like Ethiopia where refugees are not allowed to engage themselves in any form of formal employment, mental health particularly depression is widely rampant. Some humanitarian organizations try to minimize the mental health problem of refugees by liking them to the available mental health institutions, which are most often drug related treatment. What will be the best approach we need to apply to help these refugees?

      14. How are cultural aspects considered in facilitating effective integration of refugees

      15. Where, in your experience, do faith groups fit into this discourse, and could these ready-made social/relational/support structures be utilised in more effective ways in this area – and if so, how?

      16. Is there an opportunity for refugees to re-unite with their past from their first countries of asylum or their countries of origin?

      17. What are the main cultural challenges faced by the refugees on arrival?

      18. What are the main trauma/ PSS concern that are facing the refugee at arrival and after settling down (is Domestic Violence incidents increase after the resettlement like it does in the US)?

      19. According to you which steps should be started in the first country of refuge (before resettlement) to ensure a better preparedness of the refugees and to accompany them during the resettlement process to reduce the sense of loss and grief.


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