Refugee Awareness Day

By Alejandra Silvera posted 06-20-2023 05:16 PM


June 20th is World Refugee Day, a day designated by the United Nations (UN) to honour refugees around the world. This year’s theme as set by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is HEALING. As we mark World Refugee Day 2023, and remember the millions of forcibly displaced individuals, we ask psychologists to reflect on their role in supporting and working with refugee populations. The BCPA DSAC committee will offer a workshop on working with refugee clients in the Fall of 2023.

The number of forcibly displaced people around the world has more than doubled over the past decade. According to the latest available estimates, a total number of 101.1 million people worldwide were forced to flee their homes due to conflict, violence, fear of persecution and human rights violations (UNHCR, 2023).
Since 1980, Canada has welcomed 1,088,015 refugees and continues to do so (UNHCR, 2023). After a period of limited resettlement during the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada received over 20,000 refugees in 2021. In 2022, Canada planned to welcome between 55,000 and 79,500 refugees and protected persons (IRCC, 2022).
Mental health studies consistently find a high prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression in refugees. In a recent meta-analysis, which included studies with asylum seekers conducted between 2003 and 2020, the authors found 31% for PTSD vs. 3.9% in the general population and 31.5% for depression vs. 12% in the general population. Prevalence of PTSD and depression persists for many years post displacement, suggesting ongoing suffering from mental illnesses in the post migration environment (Blackmore et al., 2020).
In spite of their expertise in treating mental health conditions, psychologists are seldom involved with refugee populations. In addition to general psychological competencies, specialized mental health treatment is needed. Some helpful resources include:

- Blackmore, R., Boyle, J. A., Fazel, M., Ranasinha, S., Gray, K. M., Fitzgerald, G., Misso, M., & Gibson-Helm, M. (2020). The prevalence of mental illness in refugees and asylum seekers: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Medicine, 17(9), e1003337-e1003337.
- CIMM - Refugees and Resettlement May 12, 2022. IRCC (2022).
- Global refugee statistics. UNHCR (2023). .