Be Brave: Supporting the Mental Health of Young Refugees and Asylum Seekers

By Abdoul, a young person on our Mentoring Programme

Today, on Youth Mental Health Day, we are called to reflect on this year’s theme “Be Brave.” It’s a poignant reminder of the courage it takes to confront the challenges that young people face in today’s world. According to Stem4, a UK-based charity supporting teenage mental health, the statistics are staggering. One in six 5-16-year-olds in the UK has a diagnosable mental health disorder, and six in ten young people are experiencing various mental health difficulties. However, only a third of them can access effective treatment [1]. Now, let’s consider how these numbers affect young refugees and asylum seekers who endure unique and often overwhelming challenges.

The Refugee Council reports that 61% of asylum seekers experience mental distress and that refugees are five times more likely to have mental health issues than the UK population [2]. The mental health challenges faced by young refugees and asylum seekers are exacerbated by the trauma of displacement, uncertainty about their future, and the isolation that can come with being in a new and unfamiliar environment. These young individuals have already faced unimaginable hardships, fleeing conflict, persecution, and violence. When we factor in their experiences alongside the statistics mentioned earlier, it becomes evident that their mental wellbeing is even more fragile.

Imagine being a young refugee or asylum seeker, dealing with the same mental health issues as your peers – anxiety, low mood, eating disorders, and self-harming behaviours – while also navigating a foreign culture, language barriers, and the constant fear of deportation. The courage it takes to confront these challenges is immeasurable.

At Hope for the Young, we recognise the vital importance of addressing the mental health needs of young refugees and asylum seekers. We understand that being brave is not about facing these struggles alone but seeking help and support when needed.  Our Mentoring Programme and our Grants and Advocacy Programme seek to offer emotional support, guidance, and a sense of belonging to these young individuals.

For example, our mentors can support young people’s mental health by encouraging young people to take part in social activities and supporting them to improve their English, develop their confidence, and find work experience or volunteering opportunities. Additionally, 100% of our grantees last year told us that the financial and emotional support they received had a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing. We can also support young people’s mental health by signposting them to suitable therapeutic services and support groups where needed.

Today, let us honour the bravery of young refugees and asylum seekers and reaffirm our commitment to providing them with the tools and support they need to overcome their mental health challenges. Together, we can ensure that they too can “Be Brave” in the face of adversity and build brighter futures.

Alice Finta

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