With Buffalo’s refugee community growing, offering mental health care in a variety of languages and for a number of ailments has become a challenge for service providers.
Mental health issues can arise from trauma suffered in the refugee’s home country, as well as the stress of coming to a new country, said Jessica Pirro, associate director at Crisis Services.
“Even though they may be coming from a deplorable and challenging situation, it’s still a change when they get here,” she said. “Even if it’s better, it’s still a change, and sometimes that can be as overwhelming as the trauma they experienced in their home country.”
Crisis Services provides emergency mental health care to Erie County, and is working on ways to deal with the issues involved with serving the refugee community. They’ve set up an account with Language Line, a service providing interpreters for non-English speakers and have partnered with area resettlement agencies who have interpreters on staff, Pirro said.
“We do have that accessibility to the refugee community,” she said. “We also may have to set-up an interpreter if we have to go out and see someone face-to-face.”
Some of the languages they’ve dealt with include Somali, Russian, Farsi, Urdu, Mandarin and Dari, she said.
While most refugees transition well, those that need assistance have options, said Eva Hassett, executive director at the International Institute of Buffalo.
“In the event that a client has mental health issues there are plenty of places in Western New York for them to go,” she said. By Michael Canfield and Jacob Tierney