Around the world, refugees and asylum seekers are exposed to tragic and unfortunate circumstances and experiences that force them to flee their country of origin. As a result, many are prone to experiencing psychological stressors at every stage of their journeys. First, they are prone to experiencing violence when they travel to seek asylum. Upon arrival in a transit country, they are prone to experiencing stress because of having to wait years for confirmation of resettlement. Moreover, when they finally arrive in their destination country, they are apt to encounter various problems, such as unemployment and discrimination. All these experiences are associated with increased severe mental health issues and suicide risks among refugee communities worldwide, including Indonesia.
In the last two years, IOM Indonesia has recorded an increase in depression among refugees due to protracted stay and also carrying the stress of migration from one country to another. In 2019, IOM supported access to psychiatric treatment for 261 refugees. Meanwhile, in 2020, this number grew to 271 and 385 in 2021. In addition, from 2020 to 2021, 655 refugees accessed counseling services, 29 of whom needed professional help following suicide attempts or acts of self-harm. Tragically, in the same period, six refugees committed suicide.
Despite refugees and migrants being generally at-risk groups and highly dependent on aid, from a strength-based perspective, they are viewed to have specific personal and environmental resources and strengths to take responsibility for themselves and their community. Therefore, for IOM, mobilizing refugee communities' resources are essential to reduce the risks and create societies focused on wellbeing.
With this approach, IOM set up a group of suicide gatekeepers from refugee communities and provided them with training on suicide prevention and response to increase their knowledge and find solutions together.
Here are a few quotes from the Gatekeepers' group in Medan, North Sumatera, after they received the training on preventing suicide among refugee communities.
S (Male, Somalia, 25 years old)
"Helping others is the ability to understand others, work individually and collectively, self-development and quick response, understanding the frustrated person."
D (Male, Somalia, 29 years old)
"Observation is critical. I must recognize the signs, be a good listener, and be attentive, so I can support and facilitate with IOM to give the person the care needed."
A (Male, Sudan, 46 years old)
"Giving room for those with suicidal thoughts may prevent them from making suicide attempts. We must let the person know that we are caring and that he/she is not alone."
W (Female, Pakistan, 31 years old)
"I believe we don't have to be a qualified or certified professional to be Gatekeepers. Sometimes a simple smile and a few words could do a miracle."
Y (Male, Somalia, 30 years old)
"From the training, I began understanding the bigger picture of suicide and my role in preventing such tragedy."
S (Female, Iran, 52 years old):
"Showing respect and value everyone as equals are essential. If somebody reaches out to you with their problems, you should listen and not judge."