Coventry University and City of Sanctuary collaborated with organisations from across the country, including Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust to host a ground breaking conference – Refugees’ Journeys: Wellbeing, Justice and Resilience at Coventry’s Central Hall on 27th September.
This was an important gathering of the medical profession and the voluntary sector, an excellent example of the health stream in action. Sabir Zazai set the tone of the event by describing the three stages of the refugee journey including the grief at the loss of ones homeland, the tortuous journey to safety and inhumane asylum policies on arrival. He emphasised the importance of welcome and the restoration of dignity through respectful integration and support.
Medical specialists from two of our cities of sanctuary, Dr Anne Douglas who developed mental health services for refugees in Glasgow and Dr. Alison Callaway of City of Coventry Health Centre, gave wonderful and inspiring stories of holistic services for asylum seekers and refugees, which resolve barriers and make a difference. Services which are underpinned by cultural sensitivity, respectfulness, concerned empathy, the restoration of dignity and hope, integration, trust and sharing of knowledge.
Delegates were moved by stories of resilience and hope amidst trauma and learned of important research into self-image and identity in relation to mental health and how the asylum process compounds trauma after the loss of one’s homeland and a tortuous journey to safety.
We heard from Professors Peter Kinderman and Jamie Hacker Hughes, Chair and Vice-President of the British Psychological Society, about the work of their task force and issues around policy. Dr Ute-Christine Khele from Justus-Liebig-University Giessen in Germany explained key research into identity, work and trauma. Delegates were informed of refugee’s experiences of wellbeing and mental health needs in Coventry and Warwickshire through research carried out in Coventry by the Centre for Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, The Refugee and Migrant Centre and the NHS Trust.
Jonathan Ellis Vice Chair of City of Sanctuary and Policy and Advocacy Officer for Red Cross wound up the event with a rousing speech bringing together the different strands of the day and inspiring more thought and commitment to addressing the vital issues of wellbeing, justice and resilience.
The event inspired action for both policy lobbying and for further information sharing and training for NHS staff. More than 150 delegates from several Cities of Sanctuary, other voluntary organisations and the NHS left inspired and more committed than ever to nurture wellbeing and resilience for those traumatised by war, violence and persecution.