Illustration: Sarah watches distressed man bending over papers spread on ground in front of barracks

Mental health care for refugees

As Sarah is leaving the hospital on her second day with the Refugee health team, she recognizes one of the patients she met in the afternoon who had been suffering from chronic headaches for the past weeks.

The team had ruled out the most important somatic causes with various diagnostic procedures. They would like to send him to a psychiatrist together with an interpreter, but by the time she had left it was still not clarified whether it could be covered by the public health service. Encountering him now outside the examination room, she could clearly see that he was deeply distressed.

“I wish I could help him!” Sarah thought. “He definitely looks depressed, and considering where he comes from and what he probably has been through before arriving in Germany, he may have a lot of good reasons for being distressed. But there will be no point in sending him to a psychiatrist if there is no interpreter present during the consultation. We really struggled to explain to him today what the next step will be. Without an interpreter it will not be possible to get a good medical and social history from him. Looking forward to meeting my old colleague Gisela, who is quite experienced in mental health care of refugees. She may be able to tell me how I can help patients like him…”

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