Women and men who come to the UK as refugees or asylum seekers may also find the process of integrating into the new society difficult and painful. As a result of the trauma and losses they have experienced, as well as current difficulties with immigration and resettlement, refugee and asylum seeker may experience depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, flashbacks and psychosomatic presentations. They may experience feelings of isolation due to the social, cultural and religious stigma attached to mental health problems and specifically sexual violence.
Our supportive groups provide an environment in which participants can feel the relief and support of genuine human contact. Group members can gain strength from the sharing of experiences. The help and encouragement gained from the group assists in breaking the ring of isolation, within which many of our clients feel trapped. Participants are asked at the beginning to try to commit to a minimum of three months in the group and then, if they wish to stay, to make a further commitment until the following break. At this point, each person is invited to make a decision as to whether they wish to continue in the group for another year.
Of the many therapeutic services provided at the Centre, are therapeutic Men's groups and Women's groups in several different languages, including English, for those who wish to explore issues of psychological adjustment and change. While each refugee's experience is unique, there are some which may be common to particular groups of women or men. For example, those coming from the same environment who speak the same language but there are also commonalities for people who experienced identical persecution in different cultures and communities.
In a mixed language/ethnicity group this can be a positive unifying factor. These experiences may have involved political or state violence, persecution, imprisonment, torture, domestic, family abuse or rape. In some cultures, women face blame for being raped and are scared to speak out in fear of being ostracised and rejected; many women bear the secrecy as a heavy burden. Men are also raped and, having had the courage to disclose this in therapy, struggle with the difficulties of seeing this as personal and emasculating or as a political act.
Some quotes from people attending our groups
"Therapy is like a mother feeding the child. Initially when I joined the group, it was strange, but now it feels like going to a loving family home. Therapy has been a strong source of support for me, which has also helped me to even talk about my jealousy and envy."
"It came to the point in my life where I had to ask myself: Is there life? Does it have to be lived? If so, how and where should I find the strength to live a quiet life? A light and great hope for me was the Refugee Therapy Centre, where I go every fortnight for a women's group."
"Therapy has been like a safe haven and being able to have a therapist who speaks my own language makes me feel like a home. The fact that there are people in my life who are working with all their strength and calmness for me so that I can have a happy life, gives me hope for living. So I have decided to work with all my strength, with the help I receive from the group, so that I may never be a depressive again."
"Now I only think of my children's security, because only here will they find safety. The children are going to school and are absorbing the English culture, which for me as a mother and with my condition is so positive. It is reassuring to know that they are safe and happy. Above are all the reasons why I can continue a normal life again."