Essential Pittsburgh
2:17 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Living in the Shadows: Pittsburgh Refugees & Mental Health

Credit Icars / flickr

Refugees to the region face a number of challenges, unfamiliarity with a different language is even more complicated when trying to obtain health care.

90.5 WESA Behavioral Health Reporter Erika Beras is embarking on a month-long series on the challenges refugees face in the Pittsburgh area to obtain health care. She says her interest in the topic was sparked by the high population of refugees in Pittsburgh. 

“The refugee community here has grown and grown. And in that time I’d been talking to providers and I’d been in different situations at specialty courts and I keep hearing stories about different refugees who have come in with different issues and how people are struggling to meet their needs. They don’t quite have a system in place after the first few months a refugee is in town.”

As Project Editor for the Reporting on Health Collaborative, William Heisel also finds the system to be often unprepared or overwhelmed by immigrant mental health cases

"When you’re talking about refugees, they’re coming with acute needs...Refugees are coming from conflicts that most of us will never experience and so they, in addition to having the trauma they need to get over, they have language barriers that make it difficult for them to access health care, many of them have low income status, they’re disconnected from their communities and so we are seeing this throughout the U.S. as a pretty big challenge.”