The mental health effects of Covid anxiety among international refugees who have settled in Australia were examined by a recent study.
It was found by the team that the most susceptible people are those for whom Covid brings back memories of past difficulties. The authors noted that refugees who have resettled are usually a strong and resilient group of people.
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1 in 95 people in the world has left their homes according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN’s refugee agency. Covid stressors have a profound impact on these refugees who have resettled as they bring back memories that are difficult.
Dr. Belinda Liddell, the lead author, of the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, said that as far as they know, there have not been any other studies that look at the mental health impact of Covid on refugee communities.
A survey to understand mental health was conducted in June 2020, in which there were 656 participants. The senior author of the study, Professor Angela Nickerson said that these buttons can be pushed in again due to the sort of situation we find ourselves in and added that it needs to be ensured that adequate support is available.
Dr. Liddell added that practitioners and service providers who are responding to the specific needs of refugees during the pandemic could be helped by understanding these dynamics.
She said that poor mental health can be strongly predicted by the degree to which the Covid pandemic reminded refugees of their past. These memories generally involve exposure to war, conflict, forced displacement, and violence.41% of participants reported that Covid reminded them of their past.
Prof. Robert Schweitzer, of the Queensland University of Technology, said that some of the experiences are common among women who had resettled in Australia.
He added that in terms of general category, they have reported that something like 13% of women from Sudan and a similar number of women from Burma had symptoms linked to PTSD.
In a similar manner, the rates for depression were 33% in women from Sudan and around 41% for those in Women at Risk. 65% of participants said that they worried about Covid infections when questioned about Covid stressors. He added the numbers might be even higher at present. People with more severe PTSD and health-related anxiety symptoms were more likely to be sensitive to these stressors.
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Dr. Liddell did not find it surprising given that the fear of being harmed is reflected by these concerns. She further explained that this and their other research studies indicate that refugees are a very tough and resilient community. Only a minority go on to develop psychological disorders even though they have been exposed to persecution, war, and multiple forms of adversity.
Violet Roumeliotis said that, at Australia’s Settlement Services International, they were able to witness the strength of the refugees who have fled countries that have been embroiled in war. Some of these refugees even reported that these experiences helped them prep for the ill effects of Covid.
Dr. Liddell said that in Australia, refugee support services have observed that a lot of people who are refugees are reporting that they are well prepared to deal with the pandemic.
The study surprisingly found that the refugees exhibit a large amount of trust in Australian government authorities.
Difficulty trusting authorities’ information about Covid was reported by only 11% of the participants of the study. There was no link between these reports and mental health conditions.