What affects the mental health of people seeking asylum in the UK? A narrative analysis of migration stories

07 Mar 2019
Sohail Jannesari, Emma Molyneaux & Vanessa Lawrence

This paper aims to understand how people seeking asylum make sense of their migration experience and the factors impacting the mental health of people seeking asylum in the UK how this influences mental health and well-being. We analyse three extended unstructured interviews with people who have sought asylum in the UK that were generated through interviews with a theatre company. This is augmented by two interviews with theatre company staff about the interview process. Transcripts are analysed using simultaneous thematic and narrative analysis.

Seven themes are identified; the overarching theme is one of dehumanisation due to the asylum process and public discourse. Narrative analysis demonstrates how experiences of torture and lack of control in countries of origin continued in UK. Moreover, the asylum process inhibited people reconciling their pre-migration trauma and stopped interviewees planning for their future, leading to a loss of identity. Interviewers worked with interviewees to create a narrative to prompt the audience into action on migrants’ rights. Results suggest the importance of creating a secure, trusting space where people can purposively construct their narratives of migration to reframe traumatic experiences.