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Asylum seekers and refugees Mental Health Programme

An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) mental health programme has won a top Scottish award for its work with asylum seekers and refugees.

The Sanctuary programme, developed by the NHSGGC Positive Mental Attitudes (PMA) initiative based in East Glasgow, picked up the “Respect for diversity” prize from the Mental Welfare Commission’s Principles into Practice Network.

Sanctuary has the twin aims of addressing stigma and discrimination experienced by asylum seekers and refugees, and also to deliver training programmes to help improve NHS staff awareness of the community’s mental health needs.

The programme also includes a DVD which tells the stories of six asylum seekers and refugees living in Glasgow. The film won a highly commended award at the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.

Neil Quinn, NHSGGC, Mental Health Improvement Lead, said: “With Glasgow hosting increasing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees over the last few years, developing a programme of work to understand and improve the mental health of this group became a priority for us.

“We built effective partnerships with a range of national organisations to help secure the expertise to help us deliver this piece of work.

“The Sanctuary programme is innovative on a number of different levels, with good reach within local communities through the peer led community workshops and a high quality film capturing the narratives of asylum seekers and refugees which has informed a tailored training programme for staff within the NHS and other services.

“The award reflects the strength of the partnerships as well as the innovative nature of the work and provides a spotlight on this very important issue.”

Peer led research involved more than 100 contributors and identified how pre-migration trauma as well as poverty, racism and the stress of the asylum process impacts negatively on mental health.

Stigma and discrimination within these communities often leads to a reluctance to seek help.

Following the research 10 peer educators were drawn from asylum seeker and refugee community organisations and 25 workshops were held attended by several hundred people.

The DVD “Inside stories”, funded by the NHS Mental Health Partnership’s training group was integrated into a training programme, based on the specialist knowledge and expertise within the Sanctuary group, and has already been delivered to more than 100 NHS staff and 12 more courses are planned.

The external partners of the Sanctuary programme are NHS Health Scotland, Scottish Refugee Council, Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, Mental Health Foundation and Voices of Experience (VoX).