8th Regional Refugee Forum Christchurch

OEC Senior Advisor, Deborah Lam attended the 8th annual regional refugee forum in Christchurch hosted by the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre.

The topic of this year’s forum was Refugee Health through Literacy, Advocacy and Outreach. The key note address, Psychiatry and Refugees, was given by Dr Sandy MacLeod who was instrumental in the establishment of the Christchurch District Health Board Refugee and Migrant clinic which operated from 1998 to 2009.

Dr MacLeod, spoke on refugee stressors, and the clinical challenges associated with diagnosis. He noted that western psychotherapy and pharmacological treatments for post- traumatic stress disorder in the treatment of patients from different cultures often have uncertain outcomes as symptoms may manifest differently – (the) “western world psychologises, eastern world somatises” meaning psychological distress may manifest or be described as a physical symptom in some cultures

Following Dr MacLeod, Marieke Jasperse, PhD candidate in Physiological medicine, noted that unsuccessful resettlement does not always result from pre-migration trauma but may be attributed in some cases to post displacement trauma – associated with the settlement experience and societal prejudice against refugees. 

Other presenters included the Christchurch Community Language Information Network Group (CLING) and Vida Hazarati Bilingual counsellor, Refugee and Migrant Health.  Forum attendees included Honourable Minister Nicky Wagner, Councillor Jimmy Chen, government agencies and non-government organizations. Selected presentations will be available on request on the Canterbury Refugee Centre website.

The continuation of the forum was particularly valuable as Christchurch waits to hear if it will be given the opportunity to resettle refugees in 2017.  Read more here.