Working with Afghan Sanctuary Seekers: A guide for mental health professionals

Aimed at professionals working with Afghan sanctuary seekers, a new guide has just been published in response to the barriers to culturally sensitive and trauma-informed care.


Today marks one year since the fall of Kabul. All over the world, Afghan refugees are uprooted and isolated, carrying unimaginable trauma, separated from their loved ones as their home country remains in turmoil.


In the UK, thousands of sanctuary seekers are still stuck in bridging hotels, confronted with hostile environment every step of the way, surviving on £8.24 a week and threatened with deportation.


It's no surprise mental ill-health is so common among this vulnerable community; but while help is available, there are many barriers to accessing support which is trauma-informed and culturally sensitive.
A new guide titled "Working with Afghan Sanctuary Seekers: A guide for mental health professionals" has just been published in response to these pressing issues.


"This guide is needed because the best people to advise on Afghan mental health are Afghans. Yet, their expertise can often be dismissed by professionals," writes a collective of experts working with Afghans in different capacities and for various organisations – such as Association of Afghan Healthcare Professionals-UK, Afghan Academy International and Paiwand - and members of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, supported by the Qualitative Applied Health Research Centre (QUAHRC) at King's College London.


Ramzia Akbari is a mental health counsellor at Paiwand with many years' experience working with asylum seekers and refugees. She contributed to the guide with insight into the difficulties that can arise in a therapeutic setting and how to address them. Akbari emphasises the importance of a trauma-informed approach to therapy of sanctuary seekers, while her case studies focus on physical manifestations of trauma, how faith can help us to regain control in triggering situations, and more.


In chapters such as 'Accessing mental health support', 'Addressing race in mental health conversations' or 'Symptoms of mental ill health,' the team of experts offers advice on overcoming barriers and providing culturally sensitive care to Afghan sanctuary seekers.


The guide also includes case studies, quotes from Afghans treated for mental ill health, as well as a glossary of mental health terms used in Dari, one of the two official languages in Afghanistan.


A must-read for anyone working with sanctuary seekers; find the guide here.


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