The main target group for this research is the asylum seekers and refugees (ASRs) in the United Kingdom, who are at a higher risk of developing PTSD, depression, or other anxiety ailments than the overall population. This topic is of concern because it tends to be ignored or overlooked by concerned authorities. Moreover, lack of political will, resources, health service delivery inconsistencies, mental health policies, and communication difficulties all act as barriers to enabling asylum seekers and refugees to get the necessary mental health treatment or intervention (Pollard & Howard, 2021). Since 2011, a large entry of these groups of individuals has put an enormous burden on the UK’s under-resourced psychological and nationwide health services. This topic is thus of interest since the number of individuals exiled from their native nations due to political violence, armed conflict, war, and other linked threats is increasing (Song & Teichholtz, n.d.).
It is estimated that if present trends endure, one in a hundred individuals will be a refugee or asylum seeker in the near future. Most of these individuals are at a higher risk of developing major psychological conditions and mental symptoms that can last for many years following resettlement. This topic also requires attention since there is limited research that investigates the full extent of psychological illness (Blackmore et al., 2020). Most literature tends to solely concentrate on depression and PTSD. The prevalence of common psychological illnesses like PTSD, depression, and anxiety is higher among refugees and asylum seekers than in host populations. Another reason for studying this target group and issue is that there is proof that the occurrence of psychoses is higher among them in different nations, not just in the UK (WHO, 2021). This has been associated with the increasing social disadvantages effect before, during, and after the migration.
The range of social and/or community factors underlying the issue faced by ASRs include lack of social integration, poor socioeconomic conditions, unemployment, racism, and discrimination (WHO, 2021). In the UK, they encounter the effects of dependence, lack of social support, and poverty, all of which undermine their psychological and physical health. According to Sengoelge et al. (2020), ASRs are exposed to various socioeconomic hardships that contribute to mental health issues like PTSD, anxiety, and depression. During the immigration process, these groups of individuals get housing on a no-choice basis and can experience worry, detention, and anxiety due to the doubt of the asylum or refuge outcome. Given that most ASRs seek refuge in another country due to social, political, and economic hardships, their mental health challenges are increased in the host nation following a lack of social support from the host government.
Once they arrive in the UK, ASRs encounter additional problems and disparities as a result of their immigration status. According to EHRC (2016), finding employment for these groups of individuals is next to impossible as rights linked to accessing employment are yet to be fully realized. They can only find jobs in poorly controlled, low-skill, and low-wage industries that make them vulnerable to exploitation. ASRs cannot access adequate medical care as they are not insured or cannot afford to pay for it. Lack of employment and access to necessary health services results in higher rates of psychological issues. Another issue encountered by these groups of individuals concerns their children who can be detained together with victims of trafficking, individuals with severe psychological disabilities, or torture survivors while awaiting their case reviews (EHRC, 2016). This puts them at risk and eventually leads to the children developing mental conditions. Additional social or community factors underlying the issue faced by ASRs are stigma relating to misconceptions about immigrants in the UK, social isolation both in their home and host nations, and hostility.
The main argument of this paper is that in the United Kingdom, ASRs are at a higher risk of experiencing PTSD, depression, and additional anxiety conditions than the overall population. This is further worsened by the socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental factors in the host nations. A community and social-psychological approach would thus be more suitable than an individualistic one for the argument. This approach will capture the feeling ASRs experience when they see themselves as having an interdependent link with the wider community outside themselves (Jimenez, Hoffman & Grant, n.d.). The social-psychological approach will help to understand and elaborate on these groups of individuals’ behavior, thoughts, and feelings, and how they are impacted by the indirect, real, or imagined presence of others (Cherry, 2020). An individualistic approach would be inapplicable in this case because ASRs do not have the freedom to choose what they want or the means to obtain it.
The individual-level approach has further limitations in handling or addressing the mental health issues facing ASRs. This approach tends to only focus on one individual within a larger group. It looks at how one’s cognitive, behavioral, and social skills are influenced by different factors (JBLearning, n.d.). An individual-level approach fails to change the underlying causes of an event or illness. It requires repetitive and costly screening processes to determine high-risk individuals within a given group. It also focuses on factors like motivation, past experience, skills, and knowledge, that influence behavior.
One benefit of taking a social/community approach will be to allow the observation of the interactions between ASRs and their environment to understand the negative and positive impacts it has (SAGE, 2019). This approach will permit for the formulation of interventions that target the whole group and not individuals within it. A social/community approach will be beneficial since it will help better understand this group’s issues by observing the ASRs within their cultural, geographic, historical, social, and economic contexts. Doing so will connect to the core values linked with this module.
Applied social psychology refers to the use of social psychological theories, investigation, experimental techniques, results, and standards to understand social matters and offer real-life solutions for different social challenges (Psychology, 2022). It operates on the idea that social issues such as those experienced by ASRs are caused by human behavior. Normal social psychologists try to separate the causal associations between small numbers of precise variables that can be sensibly managed in the lab. Contrarily, applied social psychologists aim to identify and forecast large-scale effects that can be employed in designing and implementing social programs (Psychology, 2022). The Applied Social Psychological theories that will be used to understand ASRs and the issue of mental health are Reasoned Action Theory, Equity Theory, Inoculation Theory, Prospect Theory, and Symbiotic Interactionism.
The theories listed above will be applied to the ASRs by providing evidence and their relevance to the topic. Reasoned Action Theory forecasts people’s behavior, positing that the best predictor of their behavior in any situation is their intent to perform it (Psychology[a], 2022). The intention to perform a certain behavior is influenced by one’s attitude towards it, the attitudes of those significant to the individual, and the related professed social pressures. Regarding the ASRs, they might believe that immigrating to the UK is better as it could lead to a better future for them. However, most end up being detained while awaiting processing or finding employment in jobs that put their health or lives at risk. They might expect access to health care services or social support from the host country, which is not usually the case. Such disappointments and frustrations lead to the development of psychological conditions like depression and anxiety.
Equity Theory suggests that individuals tend to feel more comfortable when getting precisely what they deserve from their associations (Psychology[a], 2022). If they feel over-benefited, they may feel shame, blame, and pity, and if under-benefited, they may feel resentment, anger, and sadness. ASRs migrate to the UK in the hope that the host nation will have a vested interest and behave justly and equitably towards them. However, considering that they are willing to do manual jobs to get decent salaries, they end up being poorly compensated or working under cruel conditions, resulting in PTSD, depression, and other anxiety disorders.
Inoculation Theory was developed as a strategy to safeguard people’s attitudes from change. It was meant to discuss resistance to counter-attitudinal influences, whether they are in the form of sustained pressures or direct attacks (Psychology[a], 2022). Once an individual accepts that attitudes can change, they expand their effort to reinforce attitudes. Inoculation theory provides the specific content that individuals can use to shield their attitudes and provide them with scripts or models for how to defend attitudes. ASRs have had negative attitudes toward their host country, the UK, due to the negative treatment they receive once in the country. Nevertheless, this attitude or belief is prone to change if the UK government makes an effort to support these groups of individuals socially and financially, ensuring that they get fair access to medical services and decent, non-hazardous employment. Their attitude would likely change because they would notice improvements in terms of their mental health status as there would no longer be stressors or pressures that result in psychological disorders. Any existing disorders like PTSD that might have been acquired from their native country would be dealt with effectively in the host country.
Prospect Theory describes how individuals make choices under situations of uncertainty. It forecasts that individuals go through two primary phases when choosing between risky alternatives or those that are uncertain. During the initial phase, they edit complex choices into simpler ones, like gains or losses. The second phase involves deciding between the edited alternatives available to them. The choice considers the apparent worth and weight assigned to the alternatives (Psychology[a], 2022). As already indicated, ASRs usually do not have better options in terms of medical care, housing, or employment once they are in the UK. They have to choose between working manual jobs under deplorable conditions and earning low wages, or not having any form of employment, which would add to their suffering in the host nation. Most ASRs simplify this choice by opting to work low-paying jobs under such harsh conditions than living in utter poverty in the UK. Although the choice somewhat lessens the concerns they may have, they still end up developing psychological disorders including anxiety and depression due to their working conditions.
Symbiotic Interactionism studies how individuals dynamically define their social truth and understand themselves through their interactions with others. During these interactions, people tend to interpret others’ expressions and react on the foundation of the interpreted meaning (Psychology, 2022). Under symbiotic interactionism, language, nonverbal or verbal, represents the official and nonofficial norms and rules that direct social associations and build society. When ASRs arrive in the UK, they initially interact with each other as they wait to be processed and sent to their respective long-term places of residence. Once they have been posted, they interact with host residents residing around their neighborhoods. During their stay, ASRs may become more withdrawn and isolated from others due to issues of discrimination and stereotyping, from the host residents. The subjective interpretations of these treatments may result in the development of psychological disorders like PTSD, anxiety, and depression as they find themselves alone and unable to cope with their current situations. The unjust treatment and presence of disparities make them define their social reality as negative and unwelcoming.
Research could inform possible solutions or interventions to address the issue of mental health faced by ASRs. Most studies indicate that these groups of individuals encounter barriers to accessing the necessary psychological health care, which delays treatment and leads to further complexities of psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD (WHO[a], 2018). Others specify mental health care and relate to various ways of expressing difficulties in mental health, through supernatural explanations or physical complaints. Studies also relate mental health care to fear of discrimination experienced by some of the ASRs suffering from psychological disorders. One possible solution or intervention suggested by research to address this issue is to coordinate psychological and physical care with social services to allow a non-sectoral and holistic perspective (WHO[a], 2018). Ways to attain better coordination of different elements of care are discussed in social and health care literature. Integrated and specialized mental health care services for the ASRs suffering from psychological disorders like PTSD, depression, and anxiety would be better alternatives to attain such coordination, although there is no one preferred approach over another. This solution or intervention could be adapted for my target group.
Integrated and specialized mental health care services for ASRs is likely to succeed in addressing the psychological concerns since policies would be adjusted to ease the hostile environments including healthcare fees and access to health care for this target group. The current mental health plans and policies in the UK do not have explicit guidance on ASRs (Pollard & Howard, 2021). Some factors however, might limit the effectiveness of these interventions including resources and political will. The asylum-seeking process has been experiencing challenges including uncertainty concerning immigration status, lack of access to funding, lack of working rights clarification while awaiting asylum outcome, uncertainty concerning healthcare costs, hostile environment, and language barriers (Pollard & Howard, 2021). Notably, policy change is a political process. Mental health for ASRs has not been a priority in the UK. Mental health services are awarded 1.4 billion British pounds by the National Health Service (NHS) while there is no specific ASR mental funding. The implementation of these interventions requires the allocation of resources and change of policies through a political process. Unless these factors are addressed through policies, the proposed interventions might achieve slow or limited outcomes.
Insights from the UK community and social psychological theory have shown how the increased risk of ASRs developing and experiencing depression, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders than the general population can be handled. ASRs often experience a range of social and community factors including lack of social integration, poor socioeconomic conditions, unemployment, racism, and discrimination. Applied Social Psychological theories have identified that the intent of seeking better opportunities, an impartial environment, reinforcement of positive attitudes, expansion medical care options, housing and employment, and the development of positive social constructs, need be addressed. Such interventions include developing integrated and specialized mental health care services for ASRs to coordinate both psychological and physical care with social services. This is notably a community approach that will allow the observation of interactions between the ASRs and their environment in terms of cultural, geographic, historical, social, and economic contexts, and thus help understand its health effect on this population.
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Cherry, K. (2020). An overview of social psychology. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellmind.com/social-psychology-4157177#:~:text=According%20to%20psychologist%20Gordon%20Allport,is%20about%20understanding%20how%20each
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). (2016). England’s most disadvantaged groups: Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Retrieved from: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/is-england-fairer-2016-most-disadvantaged-groups-migrants-refugees-asylum-seekers.pdf
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