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World Refugee Day 2022

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By EMN Updated: Jun 19, 2022 10:23 pm
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Theme:  “Together We Heal, Learn, and Shine”.

“Refugees are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, with the same hopes and ambitions as us-except that a twist of fate has bound their lives to a global refugee crisis on an unprecedented scale.” – Khaled Hosseini

Each June 20, the globe comes together to honour World Refugee Day. The United Nations General Assembly launched the holiday in 2000, and since then, the worldwide community has spent the day focused on ways to improve the lives of refugees. Most of us know that refugees are forced to leave their homes due to war, terror, or other crises-but fleeing their home country is often just the beginning of a difficult journey. Many refugees find themselves living in camps until they are resettled-some of which are dangerous or not well-equipped for long term living. Refugees don’t always have a say in which country they are ultimately relocated to, and the bureaucratic process involved in finding their new home can take years. Worldwide refugee crises have taken centre stage in the news in recent years, so it’s more important than ever to share support and to celebrate World Refugee Day. 

Traumatic Experience of the Refugees:

Refugees have experienced many extremely stressful events because of political or religious oppression, war, migration, and resettlement.  It is difficult to even define all of the types of events they have suffered, because refugee trauma often precedes the primary war-related event that causes them to flee. Before being forced to flee, refugees may experience imprisonment, torture, loss of property, malnutrition, physical assault, extreme fear, rape and loss of livelihood. The flight process can last days or years.  During flight, refugees are frequently separated from family members, robbed, forced to inflict pain or kill, witness torture or killing, and/or lose close family members or friends and endure extremely harsh environmental conditions. Perhaps the most significant effect from all of the experiences refugees endure is having been betrayed, either by their own people, by enemy forces, or by the politics of their world in general.  Having misanthropic actions of others become a major factor controlling the lives of refugees has significant implications for health and for their ability to develop trusting interpersonal relationships, which are critical to resettlement and healing.

When refugees resettle to a host country, which is most often in a place that is not of the refugee’s choosing, the refugee must adapt to a new place and language under uncertain circumstances and with uncertain futures.  Re-establishing a home and identity, while trying to juggle the tasks of daily living, is yet another significant challenge that the refugee must undertake. Early studies showed that post-migration stress contributed to the poor mental health of refugees. Recent work has verified that post-migration stress significantly influences the emotional well-being of refugees, and often provides a risk similar to or greater than war-related trauma.  Pre-and post-migration stress may differentially predict specific kinds of symptoms and distress in both children and adults. This information is important; it is during the period of resettlement where stress is high and the refugee may be reminded of other traumatic events of their lives, when resettlement agencies and health care workers might start to reverse the effects of trauma across the lifespan of the refugee by providing culturally sensitive care that gives the refugee support.                              

World Refugee Day Significance:

World Refugee Day is observed to preserve and enhance the lives of refugees across the world, ensuring that they not only survive but also live in dignity. This day is dedicated to highlighting the rights, aspirations, and needs of refugees in order to generate political will so that refugees can not only survive, but also thrive. However, it is more difficult to reinforce and safeguard the lives of refugees on a regular basis, thus World Refugee Day was established to raise awareness about the conditions and difficulties that refugees face in their daily lives. The enormity of the global refugee issue might be difficult to comprehend, but increasing awareness can help people comprehend the scope of what refugees throughout the world are facing. It also fosters empathy and compassion, which brings individuals from all walks of life together, which is always a good thing.

Understanding Refugees Traumatic stress:

Traumatic stress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Usually, symptoms get better with time, but people with more intense symptoms may need professional help. Over the course of a lifetime, it’s common to be exposed to a traumatic event, whether it is a violent act, a serious injury, a sexual violation, or other shocking event like leaving their homes due to war, terror, or other crises. In response, many will experience traumatic stress-a normal reaction to an abnormal event. People may even experience traumatic stress by just witnessing a highly distressing event or having a close family member or friend experience such an event. In the days and weeks following such a trauma, it’s common for people to have a flurry of unpredictable emotions and physical symptoms. They include: Sadness, Feeling nervous, jumpy, or on high alert, Irritability or anger, Difficulty sleeping, Relationship problems, Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares, Trouble feeling positive emotions, Avoiding people, places, memories, or thoughts associated with the traumatic event. Usually, these symptoms get better with time. But for some people, more intense symptoms linger or interfere with their daily lives and do not go away on their own. Some people may develop acute stress disorder in which they have extreme symptoms of stress that significantly interfere with daily life, school, work or social functioning in the month after a traumatic event. Others can develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with symptoms that interfere with daily life and last for more than a month after the trauma.      

Coping with traumatic stress:

The good news is that there are very effective ways to cope with and treat the stressful effects of trauma. Psychologists and other researchers have found that these actions can help: 1. Lean on your loved ones. Identify friends or family members for support. If you feel ready to discuss the traumatic event, you might talk to them about your experience and your feelings. You can also ask loved ones to help you with household tasks or other obligations to relieve some of your daily stress. 2. Face your feelings. It’s normal to want to avoid thinking about a traumatic event. But not leaving the house, sleeping all the time, isolating yourself from loved ones, and using substances to escape reminders are not healthy ways to cope over time. Though avoidance is normal, too much of it can prolong your stress and keep you from healing. Gradually, try to ease back into a normal routine. Support from loved ones or a mental health professional can help a lot as you get back in the groove. 3. Prioritise self-care. Do your best to eat nutritious meals, get regular physical activity, and get a good night’s sleep. And seek out other healthy coping strategies such as art, music, meditation, relaxation, and spending time in nature. 4. Be patient. Remember that it’s normal to have a strong reaction to a distressing event. Take things one day at a time as you recover. As the days pass, your symptoms should start to gradually improve.

Not everyone requires treatment for traumatic stress. Most people recover on their own with time. However, mental health professionals such as psychologists can help you find healthy ways to cope in the aftermath of a traumatic event. If your distress is interfering with your relationships, work, or daily functioning, you may have acute stress disorder or PTSD. Psychologists can provide evidence-based interventions to help you cope with traumatic stress or acute stress disorder. One is Psychological First Aid (PFA), originally designed to help children, adolescents, adults, and families in the aftermath of a disaster or terrorism. It’s now used to help people who have experienced any type of trauma. PFA is based on the idea that distress is normal after a traumatic event. Rather than treat that stress like a disorder, the focus of this approach is to provide support and assistance and share information about stress reactions and coping strategies. Mental health providers and disaster response workers provide PFA in the days and weeks after a trauma, in diverse settings including hospitals, housing shelters, community settings, and even over telephone crisis hotlines. The goal of PFA is to reduce distress and improve coping and functioning, both short-term and long-term.

Another evidence-based treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, which is successfully used to treat many psychological disorders, including traumatic stress. CBT is a psychological treatment that helps people learn to change unhelpful thinking and behavioural patterns. The World Health Organization recommends trauma-focused CBT to treat symptoms of acute traumatic stress in adults. Some research also suggests that people who receive trauma-focused CBT may be less likely to develop chronic PTSD. In addition, a variety of treatments have been developed to help children and adolescents who have been exposed to trauma or adverse childhood events such as neglect or abuse. Many of these therapies are family-based and include the child’s parents or caregivers in the treatment process. If you or a loved one is struggling to recover from a traumatic event, a psychologist can help.

Conclusion:

World Refugee Day shines a light on the rights, needs and dreams of refugees, helping to mobilise political will and resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive. While it is important to protect and improve the lives of refugees every single day, international days like World Refugee Day help to focus global attention on the plight of those fleeing conflict or persecution. Many activities held on World Refugee Day create opportunities to support refugees.

“Refugees are not terrorists. They are often the first victims of terrorism.” 

Rev. Fr. C. Joseph, Counsellor
St. Joseph’s College (Autonomous)
Jakhama, Kohima – NAGALAND

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By EMN Updated: Jun 19, 2022 10:23:24 pm