Migration Health

Healthy Migrants in Healthy Communities

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A women’s group in South Sudan uses embroidery as a psychosocial intervention and livelihood programme. © IOM 2015

Mental Health, Psychosocial Response and Intercultural Communication

IOM's Perspectives

Whether people migrate voluntarily, are forced due to vulnerable situations such as poverty, or are displaced due to conflict, war, natural disasters and generally living in a conflict, post-conflict, or post-disaster situation, migration entails major adaptations. During migration, people must redefine personal, interpersonal, socioeconomic, cultural and geographic boundaries. This implies a redefinition of the individual, family, group and collective identities, roles and value systems and may be a source of stress for the individual, the family and the communities involved.

Migration and its challenges may create specific psychosocial vulnerabilities that, if combined with other risk factors such as pre-existing emotional and psychological vulnerabilities, social vulnerabilities and insecure environments, can affect the wellbeing of the individuals involved. Providing psychosocial assistance to migrant populations, especially those who are most vulnerable, in educational, cultural, community, religious and primary health settings reduces vulnerabilities, and prevents their stagnation, which may result in long-term mental problems for the individuals and social problems for the communities at large.

Facts and Figures

IOM has provided mental health and psychosocial support to and created capacity-building initiatives for migrants and host communities since 1999. By working with partners and key stakeholders, IOM aims to strengthen the capacity of relevant psychosocial services provided to vulnerable migrants, including crisis-affected populations in emergency and post-emergency settings. IOM has implemented programmes dedicated to improving the availability and quality of psychosocial support in over 45 countries. IOM has worked closely with governments, international organizations and civil society to extend its impact within the last year, resulting in the following estimates:

  • 35 ongoing projects/activities
  • Active projects in more than 20 countries 
  • 700,000 beneficiaries reached in the last 18 months

In 2014, psychosocial emergency programmes were developed and expanded in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, and for Syrians, in and outside of Syria, and Christians and Yazidi minorities in northern Iraq, among many others.

IOM's Activities

The mental health and psychosocial support services of IOM serve migrant, host, displaced, mobile and crisis-affected populations, including former combatants, through identifying, analyzing and responding to psychosocial and cultural integration needs of target populations in a variety of community settings, including in camps in emergencies. IOM promotes the availability and accessibility to competent mental health and psychosocial support services for target populations by designing projects that integrate direct service delivery and capacity building which consider the specific context, vulnerabilities and resources of the beneficiaries and aims to integrate mental health, psychosocial and cultural integrative aspects.

Some specific activities include:

  • Capacity building for professionals, governments, agencies and IOM departments through:
    • Assessments, analysis and research;
    • Knowledge dissemination initiatives, including conferences;
    • Workshops, summer schools, masters programmes; and
    • Development of policy papers and guidelines.
  • Direct service provision to the populations through:
    • Mobile units;
    • Counseling centres;
    • Recreational centres;
    • Community centres;
    • Resource centres; and
    • Direct assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants.
  • Development of an international expert network in: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Yemen and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.