, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 105-116
Date: 20 Jun 2012

Experiences with treating immigrants: a qualitative study in mental health services across 16 European countries

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Abstract

Purpose

While there has been systematic research on the experiences of immigrant patients in mental health services within certain European countries, little research has explored the experiences of mental health professionals in the delivery of services to immigrants across Europe. This study sought to explore professionals’ experiences of delivering care to immigrants in districts densely populated with immigrants across Europe.

Methods

Forty-eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with mental health care professionals working in 16 European countries. Professionals in each country were recruited from three areas with the highest proportion of immigrants. For the purpose of this study, immigrants were defined as first-generation immigrants born outside the country of current residence, including regular immigrants, irregular immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees and victims of human trafficking. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis.

Results

The interviews highlighted specific challenges to treating immigrants in mental health services across all 16 countries including complications with diagnosis, difficulty in developing trust and increased risk of marginalisation.

Conclusions

Although mental health service delivery varies between and within European countries, consistent challenges exist in the experiences of mental health professionals delivering services in communities with high proportions of immigrants. Improvements to practice should include training in reaching appropriate diagnoses, a focus on building trusting relationships and measures to counter marginalisation.