Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 105–116 | Cite as

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

  • Sima SandhuEmail author
  • Neele V. Bjerre
  • Marie Dauvrin
  • Sónia Dias
  • Andrea Gaddini
  • Tim Greacen
  • Elisabeth Ioannidis
  • Ulrike Kluge
  • Natasja K. Jensen
  • Majda Lamkaddem
  • Rosa Puigpinós i Riera
  • Zsigmond Kósa
  • Ulla Wihlman
  • Mindaugas Stankunas
  • Christa Straßmayr
  • Kristian Wahlbeck
  • Marta Welbel
  • Stefan Priebe
Original Paper



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.


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.


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.


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.


Migrants Mental health services Europe Qualitative 



This study is a part of the EUGATE project funded by the General Directorate of Health and Consumer Protection of the European Union (DG-SANCO). More information on the website: All authors would like to acknowledge the entire EUGATE research team for their contributions to data collection and management. They also acknowledge the 48 participants for giving their time and for their willingness to share their experiences.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sima Sandhu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Neele V. Bjerre
    • 1
  • Marie Dauvrin
    • 2
  • Sónia Dias
    • 3
  • Andrea Gaddini
    • 4
  • Tim Greacen
    • 5
  • Elisabeth Ioannidis
    • 6
  • Ulrike Kluge
    • 7
  • Natasja K. Jensen
    • 8
  • Majda Lamkaddem
    • 9
  • Rosa Puigpinós i Riera
    • 10
  • Zsigmond Kósa
    • 11
  • Ulla Wihlman
    • 12
  • Mindaugas Stankunas
    • 13
    • 14
  • Christa Straßmayr
    • 15
  • Kristian Wahlbeck
    • 16
  • Marta Welbel
    • 17
  • Stefan Priebe
    • 1
  1. 1.Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Newham Centre for Mental HealthQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Institute of Health and SocietyUniversité catholique de LouvainBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Institute of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.Public Health Agency for the Lazio RegionRomeItaly
  5. 5.Etablissement public de santé Maison BlancheParisFrance
  6. 6.Department of SociologyNational School of Public HealthAthensGreece
  7. 7.Clinic for Psychiatry and PsychotherapyCharité-University Medicine Berlin, CCMBerlinGermany
  8. 8.Danish Research Centre for Migration, Ethnicity and Health (MESU), Section for Health Services Research, Department of Public HealthUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark
  9. 9.Academic Medical Centre, Department of Public HealthUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  10. 10.Agency of Public Health of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  11. 11.Faculty of HealthUniversity of DebrecenNyíregyházaHungary
  12. 12.Department of Public Health Sciences, Section for Social MedicineKarolinska InstituteStockholmSweden
  13. 13.Department of Health ManagementLithuanian University of Health SciencesKaunasLithuania
  14. 14.School of Public HealthGriffith UniversitySouthportAustralia
  15. 15.Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Social PsychiatryViennaAustria
  16. 16.Department for Mental Health and Substance Abuse ServicesNational Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)HelsinkiFinland
  17. 17.Institute of Psychiatry and NeurologyWarsawPoland

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