THE Mental Health Foundation and British Red Cross release a new report, ‘The Perthyn Project’ on Monday, (Monday 25 January) which captures the outcome of a year-long innovative partnership, funded by the Tampon Tax Community Fund through the mental health charity, Mind.
Perthyn, which means ‘belonging’ in Welsh, brought women refugee and asylum seekers together to address issues that impact their emotional wellbeing following the upheaval of relocating from their home country and the transition of making a new home in Wales.
Perthyn empowered refugee and asylum-seeking women to learn new skills; to recruit and lead groups safely with their own peers. Women from all over the world explored common emotional literacy themes in English. With this approach the participants boosted their resilience to face the challenges of rebuilding their life and to protect against and prevent mental ill health.
Nine women signed up to become peer leaders. The British Red Cross in Newport hosted the groups and provided childcare. Women who attended the groups reported a deeper connection with other members through the sharing of experiences and as a result, the women expanded their support networks into their own communities.
Jenny Burns, Associate Director for Wales at the Mental Health Foundation said; “The resilience shown by refugees and asylum seekers is remarkable, but as we know, loss and change on a grand scale can have a knock-on-effect on emotional wellbeing.
“The relocation and transition to another country, brings with it many challenges and these groups created the space for discussion of those experiences and enabled mutual support of each other.
“This action of giving and receiving social support and developing emotional literacy increases emotional resilience and can act as a preventative measure of developing mental health problems.
Jenny added: “Our research shows that peer to peer approaches both empower people and improve mental well-being and we would like to see the availability of such approaches across Wales.”
Theresa Mgadzah Jones, Project Coordinator at the British Red Cross said: “Perthyn gave women somewhere to go, a safe and supported space to talk, share problems, cry, laugh but above all, it gave them a space to make friends.
“Participants felt the project helped with their mental health and said it provided an opportunity to gather together, share feelings, talk, learn from each other and release pressures. They spoke about personal difficulties, helped and encouraged each other.
“For myself as the coordinator of the women’s group in Newport, Perthyn demonstrated the power of talking. It provided a space where they opened up and discussed everything and through this, I feel I got to know them better and they got to know each other as well.”
Ruth Gwilym Rasool, Refugee Support Operations Manager at the British Red Cross in Wales said: “Perthyn offers important learnings for our future projects supporting refugees and people seeking asylum. It links to our broader work supporting refugee participation in Wales, across the UK, and even across Europe.
“A Nation of Sanctuary should be co-designed by those getting sanctuary, and the British Red Cross is committed to ensuring that refugee experiences and voices can meaningfully inform policy and services, helping to design them.”
A Nation of Sanctuary
Wales is a ‘Nation of Sanctuary’ for refugee and asylum seekers – the only one of the 4 nations. The Welsh Government set out their action plan ‘Nation of Sanctuary, Refugee and Asylum Seeker Plan’ to ensure equality and fairness across Wales in line with the Well-Being Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
There are currently 11 cities of sanctuary in Wales and projects are taking place to support refugees and asylum seekers across the country. The success of the Perthyn project has resulted in a new partnership with REACH+ for 2020/21 and aims to further engage the refugee population across Wales; sites include Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Wrexham.
The Perthyn Project report can be found on the Mental Health Foundation’s website: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/MHF-Perthyn-evaluation-report_1.pdf