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Study: Immigrant mental health problems often untreated
Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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Researchers interviewed nearly 2,000 Kurdish, Somali and Russian immigrants in six major cities in their native languages. They found many of their mental health problems were not diagnosed and not treated.

Mental health problems among immigrants very often go unnoticed and untreated, say researchers from the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

In a broad-based study of nearly 2,000 Somali, Russian and Kurdish immigrants, the health regulator found that Kurds in particular bear deep psychological wounds that Finns may not always know how to treat.

The THL interviewed immigrants in Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Tampere, Turku and Vaasa in their native languages during the course of the study.

Even preliminary findings showed that mental health problems, according Anu Castaneda. In particular the bleak history of Kurds involved in the study has left indelible marks on some individuals.

“For example a majority of them have survived war and more than one-third of Kurdish men have been subjected to extreme acts like torture and of course this kind of cause and effect situation is difficult to imagine. But it seems that they have endured these kinds of traumas as well as other psychic and painful experiences,” she explained.

Moreover the researchers have discovered that immigrants in need of mental health treatment do not always receive it.

“There have been signs of untreated mental health problems and it’s not always easy to recognize post traumatic stress disorders and this makes it difficult to get adequate care,” Castaneda said.

Another message from the research was that immigrants should not be treated as one indistinct group.

According to Castaneda there are surprisingly large differences in the mental health status of different immigrant groups.

“For example, Kurdish and Somali women have more weight problems and difficulty with everyday physical activities. On the other hand substance abuse is more likely among the Russian population, so there are really clear differences among these groups,” Castaneda added.

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