Charles Watters – Refugees and Mental Health

“I think having a capability approach towards refugees which acknowledges agency and aspiration while at the same time provides the mental health and social care support they need is the way forward”

Charles Watters, Chair of the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University, talks about his work with refugees. In order to access refugee services and programs, the negative aspects of the refugee experience are often emphasized: refugees are characterized as traumatized people who had to flee for safety, torn from their home country. Indeed, there can be a pressure for refugees to emphasize suffering in their encounters with service providers in order to be considered legitimate. But what is the mental health effect of this? Is it possible to promote empowerment and aspirations within the refugee population without refugees being wrongly considered an economic migrants?



One response to “Charles Watters – Refugees and Mental Health”

  1. nancy Clark says:

    I think Charles Watters, raises excellent points regarding the approaches to refugee mental health. My concern is that I am not sure that we have come far enough along in mental health services in Canada to promote the capabilities approach due to the dominance of biomedicine in psychiatry in mainstream mental health care and there is not enough attention to the social etiology of mental ill health. The other issue that I am having trouble understanding is that not all refugees are the same and I think there needs to be attention to the historical processes of oppression that have stripped some refugees from being able to enact their agency to the point where they may not be able to have aspirations. This may also play into the way in which their mental health may be affected during settlement in developed countries and communities. Would love to discuss more. Thanks for your attention.

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