Immigration and Social Inclusion
This review focuses on conflict-induced displacement and its impact on child development. Worldwide, various social determinants of health have a major impact on adolescents. One’s socioeconomic status, race, literacy skills, and many other components impact the future of a child and their life for years to come. However, the often-neglected displaced person faces augmented difficulties accompanied by the struggle of navigating life. Forcibly displaced populations are increasingly facing triple the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases, and psychiatric illnesses (Abbas et al., 2018). Furthermore, it is crucial that public health surveillance and global attention are directed towards this issue, in the hopes of an initiative to combat limitations to a standard of living.
The Effects of Forced Displacement on Mental Health and Social Inclusion
Imagine being forced to leave your childhood home abruptly, without a chance to say goodbye to your best friend, or tell your classmates that you won your soccer game, unable to sleep because you were worried about the days to come. Days of uncertainty, walking, and traveling tirelessly. This is the life for many displaced refugees seeking the possibility of rebuilding their life in a new home. The UNHCR estimates that globally, the forced displacement of those fleeing war torn areas or seeking protection from persecution has surpassed 80 million within the past year (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Refugees are increasingly facing triple the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases, and psychiatric illnesses (Abbas et al., 2018). The long-lasting effects of unanticipated separation for immigrants goes beyond the feeling of homesickness. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, are examples of psychological impacts that can result from forced displacement. Children hold a level of resilience that can eventually make them numb to their emotions. Displaced children often feel neglected, and in combination with other mental health issues, these feelings of neglect can be extremely damaging to a child’s development.
Displaced children also struggle with trying to fit in a new region. Developing countries are often the hosts of many refugees. According to the UNHCR, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees, hosting over 3.6 million people. Columbia takes second place with greater than 1.8 million refugees. Other countries alongside these include Pakistan, Uganda, Germany, and Lebanon, where over 1 million refugees are located. For many children struggling to rebuild a new life, the importance of education is a moral value that they uphold. However, adapting to new environments can be extremely difficult. For example, a language barrier often exists between refugee students and teachers. It can take an extensive amount of time to translate what the teacher says, and for that reason, many refugee students tend to not, or are not able to participate in classes.
Migrant and refugee children also tend to face higher rates of bullying (Caravita et al., 2016). Social development stems from an extremely important part of a person’s life; their elementary, middle, and high school years. Developing those positively influential relationships with friends and peers is crucial to one’s future. However, many refugee students are teased because of differences in the way they dress, look, speak, act, or respond to societal norms that they aren’t accustomed to. Bullying of immigrant and refugee children is often a form of bias-based bullying due to belonging to a different social or ethnic group (Caravita et al., 2016). According to a study conducted by UNICEF’s Evidence For Action, the social costs of bullying are extremely high. When looking at the rates of bullying amongst immigrant and non-immigrant children in Italian schools, migrant children faced higher rates of being bullied, at 17.9%, whereas the rates of students who were of Italian origin fell at 11.4%. These percentages provide clear evidence that migrant and refugee children have higher chances of being bullied. Bullied children face a higher risk of poor health, internalized stress, and suicidal thoughts (Caravita et al., 2016). Included amongst the many unfortunate realities that result from seeking refuge, are refugee youth dropping out of school. This is an extremely overlooked matter.
The issue of resettlement is a social determinant that has prolonged effects, both mentally and physically. For many families, the reason for leaving home is because there is no hope of a “good” life for their children in their countries. The lack of employment and infrastructure within their home countries leads them to pushing their children to education so that they can attain a life that their parents were not able to provide for them. For that reason, the children feel as if their problems are not worth listening to. Refugee parents may struggle to provide food, transportation, rent, utilities, and other necessities for their children (Jaime Ballard et al., 2019). Older refugee children often miss out on opportunities to build relationships and experiences as they feel obliged to be of assistance. Furthermore, the lack of experiences that they would have endured if their circumstances were better are often deemed as insignificant.
Overall, globally forced displacement is a detrimental contributor to many issues that affect public health. Food insecurity, unemployment, educational gaps, accompanied with other issues of adapting to a new life, is already overwhelming. Much less, having to deal with the mental aspects of such a drastic adjustment, create extreme barriers within development.In addition, refugee children struggle mentally to obtain a “normal life.” It is not easy to pack up your life to obtain another, while simultaneously combating a culture shock. Moreover, it is important that public health professionals realize that the lack of inclusivity and psychological support for refugee children result in long lasting impacts that deter global development.
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