Impact on Mental Health And Well-Being

The processes of economic and forced migration may expose individuals to a range of stressful experiences, which may have a negative impact on their mental well-being.

The move to a new country away from family, friends and support networks can be an isolating experience.

“I struggled hugely when I came here. Really, really struggled. I was lost and isolated...such a huge city not like back home where it was small and everyone knew each other and talked and the community was small and very close...you know. Yeah, I’d really hate going back and closing the door to my bedsit… The loneliness…it made me very sad and depressed and it was very hard.”
Reflects Mr D, Ireland.

Loneliness and isolation was a reoccurring theme:

“It was difficult…I felt very lonely….when [my husband] went off to work, I just had [my young daughter]. So I used to take her to the local parks and just sit there…and put her on the swings and roundabouts…that’s how I spent my leisure time…nobody spoke to me and I didn’t really expect them to.”
Mrs Windsor, Burma.

Without English language skills a person can have difficulty expressing their needs or forming relationships.

Mr Sian describes the problems his Indiancolleagues faced without the language:

“…if they work with…Indian people they alright…but if they work with the English people, they all get depressed... If you can't understand, can't talk each other, it's very difficult to pass your time. Twelve hour shifts you have to work, without speaking the word, it's very, very...difficult...

The new physical environment can take its toll:
“…we couldn't get accommodation so we lived in a kind of bedsit and that was very difficult compared to the houses we lived in Africa... I remember my sister didn't talk for a week because she was so shocked that we had to live in this room.”
Anon. Describing the first few months after leaving Tanzania.

“I will tell you what happened the first few weeks when I came, it was the worst winter we had for 80 something years…those days we had all the smog and the fog it was awful, really awful. The first morning I got up I started crying I said what am I doing here? Why am I here? Let’s get back home.”
Councillor Persaud who arrived from Guiana in 1962.

Loss of status at work can impair confidence and a person’s sense of self.

“You see, in the beginning stages it was a bit difficult to have worked as a production executive in a multi-national company and working here to carry bottles over your shoulder, it has been a bit of a difficulty because I was not used to that sort of physical work at that time for one thing, second thing is the status symbol…”
Mr Anandraja, Sri Lanka.

Prejudice can have wide-ranging consequences for health and well-being:

“…On the door was a sign: ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs’ it’s hurtful.”
Mr King MBE from Jamaica, a former resident of Bexley and Mayor of Southwark.

“…if you're treated as inferior…whether intentionally or unintentionally…it sort of gets into your psyche….you…start thinking, hang on, perhaps I am not as good as the next guy…”
Mr. Windsor, Burma

“…I was off sick for months and went back to work and was crying at work... This was my first experience of something like that in all the years I'd lived in England... It was harrowing, it was awful, I tried to stay and work…but...I got very depressed, it was my first experience of depression like that…”
Anon, from Trinidad, suffered racism in the workplace.

In some circumstances it can cause extreme mental distress with devastating consequences

“…I was walking down John Ruskin street one evening with some Scottish friends…and these two English guys, 18 19, 20 years, who were very drunk and stoned out, started arguing for no reason and stabbed me in the stomach for no reason shouting F… Off Irish B… I ended up in hospital for two months with lots of problems and suffered very badly afterwards in terms of mental health. The police never got them and it left me scarred…I’ve never really got over it. It was 1987.”
Mr D from Ireland shares a life changing experience.

In some cases the political climate impacted on people’s sense of security, heightened by the presence of the National Front Headquarters in Welling.

One participant describes a friend’s experience:

“…I remember he had to go and pick up his son by car from Welling station, even though it was walking distance just because of the fear that he would have to go past the National Front head office and there could be trouble. And it created a kind of fear, you never knew when a brick would hit the window or the front door of your house, or in what disguise they could be.”
Mrs Babraa, Ugandan Asian.

Other Bexley residents remember:

“They were threatening, they were around, in Belvedere in the pubs and if there was an Indian they would have trouble with them, on the road as well. You see, that I was feeling sometimes when I see that, we are hard-working and not any grudge or anything with others, why are they doing such like things?”
Mr Hothi from the Punjab, India.

“I went a couple of times protesting ’cos I was living in Plumstead then. I made it my duty to say to the leader of the Labour Party if we get control of Bexley council the first thing I want to see is to close their offices…and we did it. We did it. It’s not right. Look, we’re here on borrowed time, life is short why behave like this?
Councillor Persaud, from Guiana reflects on his own campaigning against the National Front.