Authors: Mauro Giovanni CARTA, Mariola BERNAL, Maria Carolina HARDOY,
Josep Maria HARO-ABAD , the”Report on the Mental Health in Europe” working group
Background: This paper is a part of the work of the group that carried out the report “The state of the mental health in Europe” (European Commission, DG Health and Consumer Protection, 2004) and deals with the mental health issues related to the migration in Europe.
Methods: The paper tries to describe the social, demographical and political context of the emigration in Europe and tries to indicate the needs and (mental) health problems of immigrants. A review of the literature concerning mental health risk in immigrant is also carried out. The work also faces the problem of the health policy toward immigrants and the access to health care services in Europe.
Results: Migration during the 1990s has been high and characterised by new migrations. Some countries in Europe, that have been traditionally exporters of migrants have shifted to become importers. Migration has been a key force in the demographic changes of the European population. The policy of closed borders do not stop migration, but rather seems to set up a new underclass of so-called “illegals” who are suppressed and highly exploited. In 2000 there were also 392.200 asylum applications.
The reviewed literature among mental health risk in some immigrant groups in Europe concerns: 1) highest rate of schizophrenia; suicide; alcohol and drug abuse; access of psychiatric facilities; risk of anxiety and depression; mental health of EU immigrants once they returned to their country; early EU immigrants in today disadvantaged countries; refugees and mental health
Due to the different condition of migration concerning variables as: motivation to migrations (e.g. settler, refugees, gastarbeiters); distance for the host culture; ability to develop mediating structures; legal residential status it is impossible to consider “migrants” as a homogeneous group concerning the risk for mental illness. In this sense, psychosocial studies should be undertaken to identify those factors which may under given conditions, imply an increased risk of psychiatric disorders and influence seeking for psychiatric care.
Comments and Remarks: Despite in the migrants some vulnerable groups were identified with respect to health problems, in many European countries there are migrants who fall outside the existing health and social services, something which is particularly true for asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. In order to address these deficiencies, it is necessary to provide with an adequate financing and a continuity of the grants for research into the multicultural health demand. Finally, there is to highlight the importance of adopting an integrated approach to mental health care that moves away from psychiatric care only.
Key words: migration, mental health, Europe, primary care, psychiatric disorder, asylum seekers, undocumented migrants