Migrant workers ‘falling through mental health gaps’

Published: 3 March 2016 at 16:38

Migrant workers on a building site

Expert calls for more to be done to address psychological wellbeing of workers

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More needs to be done to protect the mental health of migrant workers and the families they leave behind, according to an article published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal today.

Dr Chesmal Siriwardhana, an expert on the mental health of migrants at Anglia Ruskin University, states that increasing labour migration among low and middle-income nations is leaving those left behind, children and often elderly family members, increasingly susceptible to psychological problems.

Migration is increasingly shaping the world and is crucial for some lower income countries, where migrant worker remittances are the largest source of foreign currency income, totalling US$410billion in 2013.

Unfortunately the plight of some who seek work away from home is an unhappy one.  Dr Siriwardhana claims that the large population of low-skilled migrants and their families often find it difficult to access health care and their needs are largely ignored by policy makers, health system planners, development agencies and researchers.  

Dr Siriwardhana, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“Migrant workers are key to economies across the world. In Qatar for example, the new stadiums springing up for the FIFA World Cup in 2022 are largely being constructed by migrant workers.

“However, the importance of the mental health of these workers and the families they leave behind is not appreciated.  Mental health frameworks and guidance at a global level make little reference to migrant workers in low-skilled jobs.

“There needs to be more research into the mental health of these migrants, clearer definitions and the recognition that migrants and their families are not a homogenous population.  Put simply, more needs to be done.”