Image by Refugee Week.

Refugee Week in 2023 will take place from Sunday 18 June – Saturday 24 June, with the theme being ‘Finding Freedom‘.

Across the ages, freedom has held a place of importance in our society. It’s a multifaceted concept, but here, we delve into the deep connection between freedom and psychological health, focusing on liberation from psychological distress.

In its broadest sense, freedom is commonly conceived as the absence of undue restrictions and the ability to make choices without coercion. At the heart of freedom lies a chance to express one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions unreservedly. It’s the ability to weather life’s challenges and chart a unique journey through determination. But genuine freedom goes beyond external factors, penetrating into the domain of mental wellbeing. At the intersection of freedom and psychological wellbeing, one must consider the significant journey of refugees.

Every day, countless refugees brave perilous voyages, finding freedom from war, persecution, and inequality. Yet, they continue to be shackled by psychological distress, including depression and anxiety resulting from harrowing experiences. Such invisible chains can trap the human spirit, restricting personal freedom and our potential to live satisfying lives. This notion is not only applicable to refugees, but to every individual across the globe.

Depression is like a constant, oppressive shroud that darkens the mind, snuffing out the vibrant colours of life’s joys. Freedom from depression means breaking away from the stifling grip of sadness, hopelessness, and despair, reviving the ability to experience happiness, purpose, and meaning. Likewise, anxiety can enchain individuals, warping their sense of reality by intensifying feelings of insecurity and fear. Freedom from anxiety bestows peace and serenity, permitting people to face life’s uncertainties with bravery and resilience. It empowers them to live in the present, not weighed down by the spectre of fear.

The journey to freedom from psychological distress is, in essence, a journey towards healing. It involves regaining trust, rediscovering safety, and the power to envision a future free from the haunting shadows of the past. The quest for mental liberation incorporates a variety of therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness practices, and the development of resilience and self-compassion. Guiding lights on this transformative path can include religious practices, professional aid, compassionate communities, and personal introspection.

The celebration of Refugee Week 2023 is a testament to this transformative journey of finding freedom. This occasion showcases the resilience, adaptability, and the undying human spirit of refugees who have undergone the treacherous journey towards freedom. It promotes awareness, encourages aid, and ultimately underscores that freedom is not a privilege but a basic human right.

We invite everyone to take a step back and consider their mental health and, if necessary, reach out for support—for themselves and others. By fostering self-awareness, pursuing professional help, and nurturing personal growth, we can open the gates to the immense possibilities of psychological liberation, setting foot on the journey towards comprehensive wellbeing. That is true freedom, and within this sacred freedom, we all have the potential to thrive.

Adau Aher
MPower Program (formerly known as the Josephite Refugee Mentor Support Program)