The Malta Independent 24 September 2018, Monday

INDEPTH: Foreign workers, immigrants more susceptible to mental health issues than Maltese

INDEPTH online Friday, 13 July 2018, 11:57 Last update: about 3 months ago

Foreign workers are two to three times more susceptible to mental health issues than Maltese, whilst immigrants are five to six times more susceptible to these issues than Maltese, Mental Health Commissioner John Cachia said.

Interviewed by Malta Independent Editor-in-Chief Rachel Attard on INDEPTH, Cachia said that nowadays mental health is the biggest health issue in people under the age of 30; and that two groups in the population that are especially unsupported are foreign workers and immigrants.

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As a result, both these population groups are more susceptible to mental health issues than the average Maltese is.  Support can come through many networks; be it through workplace mental health policies, friends and even family.  Foreign workers hailing from both the EU and outside the EU, Cachia said, lack these support networks in their lives and as a result there is double or triple the risk of them suffering mental health issues.

The same can be said of immigrants.  These people “who passed through a lot of trauma” on their journey, Cachia explained, have between risk of suffering mental health issues that is five or six times higher when compared to the average Maltese citizen.

In fact, Cachia noted how 25% of the 450 people who were taken into Mount Carmel Hospital against their will in 2017 were either immigrants of foreign workers.

Asked what he meant by people taken into the hospital “against their will”, Cachia explained that there were two types of admissions into a hospital like Mount Carmel; those who recognise that they need to seek help and go off their own accord, and those who do not realise that their mental state is a risk to themselves and possibly even to those around them. 

Every case of this nature is monitored by the Mental Health Commissioner.  Cachia stated that out of the 450 such cases in 2017, a third of admissions of this kind were related to drug use, and he reiterated that, demographically, a quarter of the 450 cases were either foreign workers of immigrants.

Cachia appealed that at least there should be a set policy at places of work that give proper structures both to Maltese and also to foreigners who may not have the same emotional support structure at home that an average Maltese worker would.

The Mental Health Commission is currently partaking in a campaign called #Stopstigma in tandem with the University of Malta, which can be followed on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/mentalhealthisimportantmalta

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