Speaking for Ourselves

A migrant’s experience - grief and mental health

A migrant’s experience - grief and mental health

By Michel

 Migrant Voice - A migrant’s experience - grief and mental health

I started writing this piece way back in May in recognition of mental health awareness week (8-14 May 2017) but was unable to complete it.  

Why? You ask – Because I was going through a process of trying to keep myself whole.

See, when you’re caught up in the Home Office ‘hostile environment.’  When you’re tangled in their web of bureaucracy like I have been for the past several years, not allowed to work and being forced into destitution (see previous blog: A migrant experience – Living in crisis), life and death will continue whether you choose to participate in living or not.

The beginning of 2017 saw the dark side kicking open the door of my life and trying to take up residence there. I lost the one person who helped me throughout my life on 14th January and another family member was murdered on the 2nd March.  The funerals were abroad and with my case still in the hands of the Home Office I couldn’t attend.

So, the human side of me had to shut down to grieve: staying awake all night and sleeping all day, cutting off almost all contact with friends who were concerned, deciding the best place to be was in the house – on the bed. Choosing to keep my voice, I did not use it unless absolutely necessary and Yes! Praying.

I was in an emotional storm of anger, sadness, anger, guilt, anger, hopelessness, anger…

I remember firing off an angry email about my life to the Reverend at church the day after finding out about the murder.  I guess it was just my way of keeping sane. By this time, I was angry not only about the loss of loved ones but about things I hadn’t thought about in years – I had to let it out.  I received a call back and we arranged a counsel session for the following week.

On 6th March, four days after finding out about the murder of my relative, I received a telephone call from my solicitor.  A reply from the Home Office came eight months after submitting the additional information they requested: based on my personal situation I now had the option of applying for asylum on grounds of humanitarian protection and my rights under the Human Rights act, another lengthy process after going back and forth for the past three and a half years. 

How would you handle all of this?

Personally, I didn’t know what to do with myself, what to feel. And like most people I have always chosen the side of ‘living’ even when in the dark times.

I knew I had to let myself grieve in whatever way I needed, but I had no idea the form it would take. And I was aware of the presence of the dark side hovering like a smelly armpit.  That side that tells you all the rubbish you don’t want to hear at the worst possible time. The murky side: negativity, regret, resentment…. The side I always refuse to have conversations with and wish would leave as soon as possible.

How do I get rid of that sneaky talkative bugger?

The previous December I agreed to take part in my first half marathon to raise funds for charity. Given everything that was happening - should I do it, should I not?

On the 12th March with about three weeks training and less than 4 hours sleep I headed to the arena, focused on finishing the race no matter what. My mind was free for the 3 hours I was running, jogging, walking and I was buzzing for the rest of the day.  This was a therapeutic experience and at that time it was one of the best days I had all year.

And then I shut myself off for six weeks. Able only to do the bare minimum of what needed to be done: dealing with the Solicitor and Home Office, food shopping and visiting the GP.  I left the house maybe five times during this period.  
Sounds like depression, doesn’t it?

I was asked by the bereavement counsellor if I was on anti-depressants. I said, “No…the GP discussed it… but the only thing I have control over is my mind and I would like to keep it that way…going through what I am going through, it is normal to feel the way I feel…isn’t it?

I just need to find ways of keeping myself whole while dealing with it all and I would prefer to do so without anti-depressants; that’s my personal choice.”

On my GPs advice, I referred myself again to IAPT a Psychological Therapies and Wellbeing Service and started my sessions in mid-April. With the help of the therapist I gradually got back to activities I enjoyed. Among other things I went back to volunteering, socialising with friends, group walks and completed a 74 miles pilgrimage over four days to raise money for charity.

With the help of friends: My positive self, began walking with its head held high again – the purposeful badass had returned – living like I MEANT it – while allowing myself time to grieve and feeling safer knowing there is support available whenever I need it.

“Although the world is full of suffering, 
it is full also of the overcoming of it.” 
― Helen Keller
This blog is in recognition of: 

Us Humans – who find ourselves homeless and destitute because of the Home Office bureaucratic immigration system – we who are viewed by the system and controllers of it, as less than human and treated as if we do not have human emotions.

Us Humans – who did not suffer with anxiety and depression prior to our dealings with the Home Office but now do.

Us Humans – who fled prosecution, torture and warzones and now find ourselves detained indefinitely by the Home Office and continue to suffer physiological problems in detention. 

Us Humans – who are targeted for detention and detained time and time again.

Us Humans – who are stripped of all human dignities –who are physically abused and sexually abused while being incarcerated in UK immigration detention centres.

Us Humans – who are labelled ‘migrant’ and ‘asylum seeker’ and when seeking medical help for mental health problems are met with prejudice and rebuff.

And, the Humans who after years of fighting with the Home Office for fairness could no longer continue the fight – losing their livelihoods, homes and hope, they decided to take their own life.

Helpful links:

**Abuse in immigration detentions: http://www.boltburdonkemp.co.uk/news-blogs/child-abuse-blog/abuse-immigration-detention/
**BLOG –  A migrant experience – Living in crisis: http://www.migrantvoice.org/blog/a-migrants-experience-living-170317115654
**Afghan interpreter’s suicide highlights ‘mean & churlish’ UK asylum policy: https://www.rt.com/uk/341691-afghan-interpreter-asylum-suicide/
**Zimbabwean boxer commits suicide in London park rather than face deportation: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/zimbabwean-boxer-commits-suicide-london-park-rather-face-deportation-1612076

Bereavement Counselling contacts
**Cruse Bereavement Care: https://www.cruse.org.uk/bereavement-services/get-help
**SAMM (Support after murder and manslaughter): http://www.samm.org.uk/

Mental Health Contacts
**Please contact your GP in the first instance.
**If you do not have a GP and would like help accessing health care please contact ‘Doctors of the World’: https://www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/

**You can self-refer or ask your GP to refer you to IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) find a clinic in your area here: http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Psychological%20therapies%20(IAPT)/LocationSearch/10008
**Samaritans: http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us
**MIND: Commissioning mental health services for vulnerable adult migrants: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/

Get in touch

Migrant Voice
VAI, 200a Pentonville Road,
N1 9JP

Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: info@migrantvoice.org

Registered Charity
Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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