Immigrants and refugees leave their home, family, friends, customs and traditions. In the United States people are forced to navigate in an unfamiliar language and unfamiliar culture.
The shift can be so extreme that many don’t know the water is safe to drink. Some refugees tell stories of never having used an oven or turned a door knob.
It’s no wonder then that these new residents experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide.
The situation can seem hopeless when a person arrives and can’t imagine feeling safe or calm or happy.
“But it’s not hopeless,” said Dr. Paul Leung, director of the Intercultural Psychiatric Program at OHSU. “If we invest in helping them survive, to feel safe, to let their kids get an education. I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I’ve seen people get well.”
Below are the top providers in the Portland area. Check out our Cultural Service Directory for a comprehensive list.
Mental Health Crisis and Referral Line: 503-988-4888
The Multnomah County mental Health call center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “This really is a hub of access to any service related to mental health and addiction,” said David Hidalgo, director of the county’s Mental Health and Addiction Services. “It’s a one-stop entry.” Download a Crisis Line poster in Spanish, Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese or Somali.
The Intercultural Psychiatric Program: For more than 30 years this program at the Oregon Health and Science University has served immigrants and refugees from around the world, particularly those who need medication in addition to counseling or group therapy.
Western Conexiones: The staff of this Portland-based counseling center all speak Spanish. They provide individual and group therapy as well as case management and in-home care.
Lutheran Community Services NW: For 35 years, bilingual and bicultural clinicians have served residents at Multicultural Counseling Services. In addition to individual counseling, Lutheran offers adjustment support groups, targeted services for refugees and intensive case management for individuals with HIV and AIDS.
Asian Health and Service Center: With offices in Portland and Beaverton, this behavioral health clinic staffs multicultural staff who work with clients in Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Taiwanese and English. They also offer fact sheets, patient guides and flyers in Chinese and Korean.
Heal Torture: a website of tutorials, reports, trainings and best practices on how to serve survivors of torture.
Crossroads: a report on the Psychology of Immigration (PDF).
Walking Together: a Mental Health Therapist’s Guide to Working with Refugees.