On August 29, 2023, the International Center for Refugee and Migration Studies (ICRMS) hosted a pivotal lecture titled “Addressing Mental Health Challenges among Afghan Refugees: Best Practices and Innovative Approaches.” The speaker, Ms. Malalai Khan, a distinguished expert in psychology and counseling, shared insights from her roles as a Psychology Lecturer, Psychologist at the Baluchistan Institute of Psychiatry, Psychosocial Counselor for gender-based violence survivors, and an Industrial Psychologist. Her current role as MHPSS Technical Manager at the International Medical Corps underscores her dedication to mental health advancement.
Ms. Khan highlighted the pervasive mental health struggles faced by Afghan refugees and nationals in both Afghanistan and Pakistan due to limited acceptance and awareness. Emphasizing community involvement, she stressed the importance of establishing accessible mental health services, culturally sensitive counseling, and fostering integration initiatives within refugee settlements. She advocated for destigmatizing mental health issues and pursuing long-term strategies encompassing socio-economic empowerment, education, and skill development to enhance resilience among Afghan refugees.
Best Practices and Innovative Approaches
- Certainly, here are eight concise best practices and innovative approaches for addressing mental health challenges among Afghan refugees:
- Offer mental health services that respect Afghan refugees’ cultural norms and beliefs, fostering a sense of comfort and trust.
- Utilize teletherapy and digital tools to provide remote mental health support, overcoming geographical barriers.
- Establish peer-led support groups within refugee communities, promoting solidarity and shared coping strategies.
- Introduce art, music, and other creative therapies to facilitate emotional expression and healing among refugees.
- Develop youth-focused initiatives, such as educational workshops and recreational activities, to enhance resilience and well-being.
- Conduct awareness workshops on mental health, reducing stigma and encouraging open conversations within refugee settlements.
- Collaborate with local NGOs, healthcare providers, and international organizations to pool resources and amplify mental health support efforts.
- Train frontline workers to recognize and address trauma-related issues, creating a safe and understanding environment for refugees seeking help.