A 5th annual statewide refugee mental health summit was held in Richmond today, and continues tomorrow.
Refugees often experience what’s known as “triple trauma” – trauma associated with what they’re fleeing, whether that’s a threat of violence, imprisonment or religious persecution.
A second layer of trauma from the process of escaping that environment, which often involves staying in refugee camps, and a third connected to the stresses of starting their lives over in a new country.
Social worker Jennifer Shuart said, “You know there’s a guilt that people feel about being here and being safe when their family members may not be, of being separated from family members, of trying to put into context of what they went through.”
Virginia resettlement experts like Seyoum Berhe say mental health professionals can at least begin to address that third layer of trauma – starting with a screening tool, and followed up with therapy and other supports.
Last year – around 4,000 refugees were resettled in Virginia. About 51% were resettled in Northern Virginia, and 16% in Richmond.