Our Mission

At GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) we offer support to those seeking asylum in Gloucestershire, welcoming them when they arrive, advocating for them in their daily struggles, supporting them if they face being sent back as well as helping them adjust to their long term future if they are recognised as refugees.

Contact Information

Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS)
The Trust Centre
Falkner St
Gloucester
GL1 4SQ

Telephone: 01452 550528
email: info@garas.org.uk
www.garas.org.uk

Director
Adele Owen

We can all help someone’s mental well being!

June 24, 2019

For refugee week I was invited to speak at the Association of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Conference where the focus was on the mental health of young refugee and asylum seekers.

I chose to speak about safety as when working as a Clinical Psychologist at GARAS with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children, it appears that there is no meaningful difference that I can make until the young person can feel a sense of being safe in their body, within our relationship and in their environment. This can be incredibly difficult when a young person may have been in survival mode for so long and the threats to them are still very high. The children that I work with have often been very mistreated, hurt and let down by people, particularly on their journeys.

More and more I am learning to take the stance of collaboration and curiosity. Whilst respecting many of the Western Psychological ways of working that I have been taught, I am learning that this is not enough and indeed is definitely not all. This work is a daily practice of suspending what I know and really seeing, hearing and feeling the person in front of me with their own ways of coping, their strategies for survival, for healing and for resilience. Together, there may be the past to bring awareness to but only if someone is indeed ready. Often this is not the case for some time, if at all and of more urgency can be supporting young people with post migration difficulties. My supervisor alerted me to the fact that living in exile I can be very passive; waiting for asylum, waiting to hear about family, dependent on to local authority. There can be little choice and the young person may be reliant on one voice of an interpreter to be heard.

As a community at GARAS, I often notice how we all weave our work and skills together to support this feeling of safety for the young people who use our services. Young people tell me that a simple act such as a warm smile, a welcoming voice, a invitation to a community event can go a long way to making post migration a less hostile place. I observe that when working together we can additionally support young people in becoming active about their future; giving autonomy, choice and fully welcoming them with whatever they are feeling, however they are being and with whatever they are bringing. We may even enable them to feel a sense of belonging, of accepted and respected just as they are. In this, they can learn to feel safe again.

Lucy