Mental health support for refugee women - Refugee Council

Mental health support for refugee women

Women who have been forced to flee war and persecution, as well as domestic, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, can experience acute anxiety, stress and psychological turmoil. They need specialist mental health support that responds to both their cultural and individual circumstances.

We help women to cope with abuse and reduce feelings of social isolation. We do this by bringing them together to share their experiences, build meaningful relationships and normalise their past traumatic experiences.

By contextualising their experiences, the women begin to process their feelings of guilt and regret and understand that what they have experienced is not their fault. As a result, they begin to recognise that they are survivors of adversity. We help them harness this strength to build safer, happier lives in the UK.

128

women were supported in 2017/18 in London alone

55

experienced sexual abuse

47

experienced domestic violence

30

had been trafficked

12

had survived torture

5

had experienced female genital mutilation

Helping refugee women to make sense of their past

Our support starts with an initial assessment. Our therapists map each woman’s basic needs and check their physical and mental safety, focusing on preventing harm and relieving distress. This allows each woman to feel heard, to be assured about confidentiality, and to start building trust.

We provide weekly individual face-to-face counselling and therapy sessions. We also provide telephone support if women seeking asylum are dispersed to other parts of the country. Sessions include psychological support, listening to their full stories and discussing their rights with practical next steps.

In London, psychosocial groups offer a safe space to share similar experiences. While there, the women are given information, social support, coping mechanisms and tips to stay safe. Groups focus on creative activities, writing and English conversation.

“When I went to the Refugee Council, they took me in and started counselling. I was so down, so depressed, so stressed, so frustrated. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t laugh the way I’m laughing now. Over time I opened up and started to speak out and build my confidence.” A refugee woman we supported

Life for any new mother can be lonely. But for refugee women in an unfamiliar country with no other family or support network, it can be especially isolating. Our London-based Mother and Toddler group brings women with shared experiences together to socialise. Children play together, and we hold birthday parties held for every child. Facilitated by a clinical psychologist, women can use the time to talk through any worries in a safe and welcoming environment.

“[The mother and toddler group] has been very, very helpful. It is a good group and it has changed my life. I hope this group goes on to help more and more people.” Mother and toddler group participant

Refugee women's stories


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You can help refugee women by making a donation or volunteering on one of our projects.

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If you would like to refer a client living in the London area to us please contact us at the email address below.

Contact details

London Therapeutic Services