School of Social Work fundraises for refugee mental health


The Tate-Turner-Kuralt School of Social Work has an initiative for masters students to help refugees with mental health issues.

President Donald Trump’s recently signed executive order banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries poses a threat to state refugee resettlement agencies’ ability to pay for basic operations, said Josh Hinson, director of the UNC Refugee Mental Health and Wellness Initiative.

The North Carolina refugee office contracted with the School of Social Work to help fund the initiative — which has students pursuing a master’s degree in social work help newly settled refugees in the Triangle — in 2013. With the agencies potentially losing so much money, Hinson said there are concerns that these state funds will be cut off.

The School of Social Work has started an online fundraiser as part of National Social Work Month. The “Now More Than Ever” campaign on has a goal to raise $20,000 by the end of March. As of Tuesday afternoon, over $2,500 had been donated.

Hinson said when the program began in 2013, mental health treatment was not available to refugees in the state.

“We had a lot of people telling us that this is the first time they had been asked throughout their whole experience of being refugees how they were feeling and what this experience was like for them,” Hinson said.

Refugees receive assistance through mental health screenings, community adjustment support groups and individual or family therapy. Along with providing a service to refugee resettlement agencies in the area, students gain first-hand clinical treatment experience.

“Josh’s program was identified as one of the areas people felt a real compelling desire to support given everything that’s going on in the world,” said Jackie Pierce, associate dean for advancement at the UNC School of Social Work.

“They decided that was a project that they wanted to focus on in terms of supporting as a group for National Social Work Month.”

Elizabeth Anderson, a graduate student participating in the initiative, said a fear of deportation, lost connection with family and hostility in public looms over many of the refugees.

“I hear clients from Afghanistan who have said, ‘I can’t go home, the Taliban will kill me,’” Anderson said.

Hinson said there is a vital need right now to meet these refugees with open arms.

“The refugee crisis worldwide right now is unlike any we’ve seen in global history,” Hinson said. “The United States needs to be stepping up to help these folks, and when they get here they need more support because of the amount of trauma they’re experiencing.”

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