George joins us after 7 years in the translation industry, where he worked as a wordsmith, as well as an account manager. Alongside this, his personal passion for many years has been mental health work, particularly suicide prevention.
“It was inspiring recently to hear about Magid Magid, Sheffield’s youngest ever lord mayor. He embodies the essence of the ‘I am not a refugee’ campaign, which highlights the myriad of ways people have gone beyond the reductive tag of ‘refugee’. It’s really refreshing to see this issue reframed in a positive way, especially considering how polarising Europe’s refugee crisis has become in recent years. I also admire Magid for the way he communicates: he is open, honest and has a clear sense of what his values are. As he puts it, “I can’t please everyone, so I’m just going to be myself.”
The difficult question is how we can support refugees to flourish and gain the confidence to ‘be themselves’ like Magid, all while navigating a new and perhaps alienating society. There is no denying that asylum seekers and refugees have higher rates of mental health issues than the rest of the population.
According to statistics from the Mental Health Foundation, they have higher rates of depression, PTSD and other anxiety disorders, and are five times as likely to experience mental health needs. Trauma from before or during their journey is often combined with separation from loved ones and a lack of support or even discrimination in their new country.
So what can ordinary people do to support refugees?
Refugee Week is running the Simple Acts campaign, which seeks to show how seemingly small gestures can have a powerful knock-on effect.
As a linguist, the one that resonates with me most is to learn a few words in another language. Magid says that not being able to speak the language was one of the hardest things about moving to the UK, and even knowing some basic phrases in a refugee’s mother tongue can be a wonderful way of showing that they are welcomed.
But if that’s not your bag, there are loads of other small acts to suit everyone. So let’s all make an effort to be open and supportive to the people around us this week, particularly if they’re new to this country.”