Voices and Visibility: The Impact of Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ Civic Participation on Their Mental Health and Wellbeing

Sacha Hasan, Ghizala Avan, Dinna Likonde

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Social inclusion has been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the social determinants of health (SDH) that contribute to promoting mental wellbeing (WHO, 2008). Cities play an important role in promoting diversity and social inclusion, targeting the most disadvantaged groups, such as disabled people, indigenous people, youth, migrants and refugees, vulnerable women and girls, and older people (UNESCO, 2019). Refugees and asylum seekers (RAS) are known to face adversity before, during and after their arrival in the UK, with complex needs arising from their experiences of traumatic events, loss and grief (Refugee Council, 2023). Therefore, clinical and social services in the United Kingdom are now shifting to focus their role on promoting social inclusion as a recovery and prevention approach to mental health deterioration. ‘Voice and Visibility’ is a new initiative funded by Glasgow City Council (GCC), aiming to increase the representation of people from refugee backgrounds on civic forums in Glasgow - Scotland. To do this, Mental Health Foundation (MHF) commissioned this research project to develop recommendations on how RAS communities can actively participate in civic forums and other decision-making structures. However, literature building on participant-led research and approaches to enhance social inclusion as a strategy to promote mental health is extremely limited. Thus, this project’s originality lies in its methodological stand; a participatory and action-based peer-research where a mixture of quantitative and qualitative, bottom-up and top-down data collection methods of dual language online surveys, semi structured interviews and focus groups were employed. Hence, this research is a mechanism for proactively promoting awareness of opportunities for public participation as part of action research. In this, the research answered two questions; what connection (if any) is there between mental health and participating in decision-making structures and forums? and what are the barriers for RAS communities participating in civic forums from the point of view of RAS communities and from the point of view of institutions/decision-making structures? The institutions were parents’ councils (PCs) and health and social care partners (HSCPs). The project identified two sets of recommendations for both the immediate and longer terms. The immediate action was supporting communication and collaboration between PCs, schools and RAS families; the promotion of diversity and inclusion to the decision-makers in education and health sectors and assessing the impact on service provision and the wellbeing of the community groups; and supporting a two-way awareness campaign to educate RAS of the decision-making forums and their methods of engagement, and to build the capacity of decision-making boards to become more confident accommodating RAS needs. The long-term recommendations emphasise the need for decision-making cultural change which includes shifting power imbalances between RAS and decision-makers; a rights-based approach; partnership and intersectoral action; and a 'whole of government' approach to public services planning, delivery and access, towards a more sustainable and inclusive process of RAS engagement in decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023
Event54th Environmental Design Research Association Conference: Environment and Health: Global/Local Challenges and Actions - National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
Duration: 20 Jun 202323 Jun 2023
Conference number: 54


Conference54th Environmental Design Research Association Conference
Abbreviated titleEDRA 54
CityMexico City
Internet address


  • mental health
  • inclusion
  • healthcare
  • participation
  • education
  • refugees
  • community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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