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Inspiring Life in Frozen Communities: Supporting Migrant Women in Brussels to Regain Control over their Lives

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In Brussels, many migrant women without legal status have no or limited access to health care and other basic services. Their access to descent care is mainly hampered by a lack of information, limited financial resources and poor experiences in the past. Three non-governmental organisations joint efforts to help migrant women without legal status to come out of their isolation. Action research during the implementation process was conducted in order to know which elements contributed to increased feelings of trust and reinforced autonomy among the target group and more willingness to support migrants among a larger population. Our major conclusion is that mental health and well-being is largely defined by (the quality of) social relations and interactions – an aspect that is too often forgotten as a result of the medicalization of mental health related problems.

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Correspondence to Bibiane van Mierlo.

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Ethical Approval

Given the (illegal) status of our target group and the sensitivity of the subject, all information that has been obtained through interviews and other methods of data collections was strictly confidential and has been anonymized. We have informed all stakeholders of the purpose of this research and they all agreed to participate on the condition that confidentiality and anonymity could be ensured. All respondents, including the audience that came to see the final performances in the theatre participated on a voluntarily base. Those who gave their contact details to act as a potential buddy of friend of the target group did so out of free will. The use of this research for study purposes has been discussed with both the participating organisations and people interviewed and observed, including our target group, and all stakeholders gave their approval. The reading of the results by two experts was free and voluntary. We agreed on a non-disclosure agreement regarding the use of the results by a party, other than the research organisation in charge of the documentation of the results.

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van Mierlo, B., Nagel, N. & van de Put, W. Inspiring Life in Frozen Communities: Supporting Migrant Women in Brussels to Regain Control over their Lives. Community Ment Health J 57, 598–605 (2021).

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