May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and this year's focus is on reducing stigma towards mental health patients, with a particular emphasis on those in mixed migration settings. The Danish Refugee Council in Bosnia and Hercegovina recognises the importance of preserving the mental health of people on the move and is engaged in mental health and psychosocial support, together with partners, primarily Médecins du Monde, in Temporary Reception Centres since the end of 2018. That also includes referrals to mental health institutions and providing medication for patients with proper follow-up.
"Mental health is an important aspect of overall well-being. In DRC, our teams are dedicated to raising awareness among the migrant population and to reducing stigma toward mental health conditions and patients. ," says Dr. Marko Isajlović, DRC Medical Advisor.
DRC has collected data in primary health centres for 22 months, until March 2023. During this period, 272 start-up consultations and 283 follow-up consultations were provided. Non-organic sleep disorders and anxiety disorders each accounted for 12% of initial consultations, and acute mental illness accounted for 11%. During follow-up consultations, acute mental illness accounted for 28% of diagnoses, followed by anxiety disorders at 26% and depression at 12%.
"It is crucial to recognise the mental health needs of people who have fled their homes and to ensure that they have access to the care and support they need. Many of them arrive in our country with pre-existing mental health conditions, and we, as humanitarian workers, need to identify these conditions and provide appropriate treatment. In this way, we can help people to recover and rebuild their lives. We are dedicated to advocate prevention measures such as education and socialisation activities that can help reduce the incidence of mental health disorders in the future," emphasised Adnan Kapić, psychologist and DRC health manager.
Among the migrant population, DRC actively promotes the importance of seeking help when needed, especially if they are experiencing sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns.
“I traveled for several months from Greece to Bosnia and Herzegovina. I slept in the woods, experiencing many bad things that caused me trauma, such as robbery and pushback from borders. I was hungry and I was tired and beaten. When I arrived in Sarajevo, I couldn't sleep. I had no faith in the people. I heard about the mental health support offered by DRC. A doctor in the camp recommended this to me, but I was ashamed to admit that I needed that kind of help. Finally, I decided to approach DRC and Médecins du Monde, and after proper therapies, I feel better,” said Omar from Afghanistan.