Our new publication with CUP, ‘Seeking Asylum and Mental Health is a practical guide to working with people seeking asylum. It is aimed at professionals and services in a range of statutory and voluntary sector roles, including social care, public policy, and the law, as well as health.
What we have written is not an academic text, and it is not about the process of therapy, least of all ‘trauma therapy’. But it is about how those attempting to help can make a significant difference, even when busy and under-resourced.
One important aspect of making a difference is questioning the way we go about our work, and the assumptions we often make whilst doing so. Our authors have a range of professional backgrounds, and of theoretical, moral, and political positions, held with a range of intensities. In the process of writing, sometimes views were in conflict, and needed negotiation and compromise. This echoed how our subject matter was often about encounters between different value systems, and finding ways to respect and work creatively with the difference.
What seemed ‘common sense’ to one person sometimes appeared contentious to another. As an example, one discussion that runs through the book is about the implications of using conventional psychiatric models to capture the complexities of human experience, and how these both hinder and help us.
All the chapter authors share some important perspectives. We believe that in any difficult situation, all involved need to respond with kindness and respect. We do not think that this compromises any decisions or actions that are needed. Our experience is that relating to each other in this way helps make most situations better for everyone.
All of us are professionals, all of us are immersed (like it or not) in ‘Western’ understandings of mental health, the individual, and society, and most have had no first-hand experience of seeking asylum. We were interested throughout in how our shared positions influenced our thinking and approaches. However, there will still have been assumptions of which we were unaware because we all shared them.
We are all UK practitioners, and the book relates to the asylum system in the United Kingdom at a particular point in time (2022). However, we have aimed to discuss and illustrate general principles, and ways of thinking and asking questions, rather than provide information relating to a single time and place. Because of this, we trust that the book will be useful in other countries, and in years to come.
For more up-to the minute, regularly updated, links to resources we have also established a website to support the book: asylummentalhealth.uk
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