Tackling Migrant Worker Mental Health

Sean Dixon is a Union Learning Rep with Usdaw based at DHL Castleford. Sean has been working with colleagues to support migrant workers in his workplace with Mental Health issues that they may face. 

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When we attended a Mental Wealth Festival at Northern College in July 2017, one of the speakers talked about the mental health problems faced by Asylum seekers and refugees. It struck us that the issues faced by migrant workers were very similar. All are away from their homeland, though one is by choice, and as such are distant from their support network, so must in some way go through similar issues, problems and emotions.

We decided we needed to address these issues through the Learning Centre and so set up a migrant worker group. Our two ULRs who had Health and Wellbeing as their lead areas were tasked with running some focus groups around this subject at our Learning Steering meeting. We shared the findings with our local Talking Therapies, an organisation that had run Mental Health workshops onsite in the past. They tailored a bespoke session for migrant workers to address some of the issues that had been raised.

James Pearson Rayner and Luksaz Slowinski set up the sessions, inviting any colleagues that wanted to attend to help discuss their issues.  “I have been on the receiving end of problems, I’ve come out the other side with the help of both medication and my friends and family network” said James. “I am happy to talk about my experiences and help other people with theirs.”

During the sessions we explored the importance of a support network, in having somebody to talk to, especially in the absence of family members, when you are far from home.

We also discussed the problems that are raised by the language barrier, not only in knowing how to access help and support, but also in getting your message and information across. One of the surprising issues was guilt, with one attendee stating he felt guilty with his lifestyle in this country, knowing how his other family members were living back home.

The sessions helped us to improve the service we could provide to people. We found out that people wanted to discuss their issues and were glad that the Centre was running things to help them talk about them.

However, they didn’t really know enough about the range of assistance that was available through the Learning Centre so that’s something we need to tackle.  “I feel the Focus groups we held, would be beneficial happening more frequently, running alongside the ‘Drop-In’ sessions” said Lukasz.

We have now tasked the ULRs, and one of the staff members, to look at running a ‘Drop in’ session throughout the year, where anyone with an issue can ask for help and information, or advice. This will be informal. 

We are also redesigning some posters highlighting the support that our USDAW centre can give and making them available in different languages. This should hopefully be more eye-catching.

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Sean Dixon

Sean Dixon is the Usdaw Learning Centre co-ordinator at DHL Castleford.

He has worked tirelessly to promote workplace learning - even appearing on the BBC to highlight the benefits of workplace reading groups.