Depression Awareness Month

By USCRI October 10, 2023

October is Depression Awareness Month

By Rosalind Ghafar Rogers, PhD, LMHC, Clinical Behavioral Health Subject Matter Expert with USCRI’s Refugee Health Services in Arlington, VA

In recognition of Depression Awareness Month, USCRI hopes to raise awareness about depression, decrease stigma and shame, and bring help and hope to refugees who suffer from depression.

What is Depression?

We all have periods of feeling down and sad, and it is normal to feel intense sadness and grief when someone we love dies or we lose a job. But grief and sadness are not the same as depression. Depression can feel like an overwhelming weight, making even the simplest tasks feel unbearable. Depression is a common, but serious condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, and handles daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.

Approximately one in three refugees suffer from depression (Bedaso & Duko, 2022) and approximately 3-30% of refugee youth experience symptoms of depression (Henkelmann et al., 2020). Refugees are at a higher risk for depression due to the traumatic events they experience before leaving their home country, during migration, and after resettling in a new country. Another factor that puts refugees at a higher risk for depression is what is called acculturative stress which is the stress that comes from conflicts when adjusting to a new culture, such as an uncertain leg al status, difficulties in finding employment, learning a new language, or lack of social support.

What Causes Depression?

There are many possible causes of depression, from biological to difficult life circumstances. Depression may be caused by traumatic or stressful life events, like being forced to leave your home country. Health-related matters, like cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, or hormonal changes during pregnancy or postpartum, may cause depression, as well. A combination of problems that lead to more stress may also result in depression, especially when a person uses unhealthy ways of coping, such as withdrawing from loved ones or the excessive use of alcohol or other substances.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression?

Symptoms of depression can be very different from person to person. Generally, if you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms, most of the day, nearly every day, for at least 2 weeks, you may be experiencing depression:

  • Sad, anxious/worried, low mood, or crying a lot
  • Feeling hopeless, pessimistic, worthless, helpless, or guilty
  • Feeling irritable, annoyed, restless, or angry
  • Loss of interest in or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or moving or talking more slowly
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, waking early in the morning, or oversleeping
  • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes
  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not have a clear physical cause and do not get better with treatment
  • Thoughts of death, suicide, harming yourself, or attempting to end your life

Symptoms of depression can look different in men and women and in different cultures. Although people of all genders and cultures can feel depressed, how they express those symptoms, how many aspects of life are affected (home, work, school, community, friends), and the behaviors they use to cope with them may differ. Please remember that depression is not a personal failing or weakness, it is treatable, and help is available.

Do not to ignore symptoms of depression. If your symptoms do not improve or get worse, seek medical help. After being assessed by a healthcare professional, medication, supportive treatments, and/or lifestyle changes may be recommended. If you are reluctant to seek medical help, talk to a loved one, someone you trust, any healthcare professional, or a religious/faith leader.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide or would like emotional support, call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that is available 24/7. If you or someone you know is having a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

For resources or more information about USCRI’s Refugee Health Services program for resettled Afghans, please visit: https://refugees.org/the-behavioral-health-support-program-for-afghans/




Bedaso, A. & Duko, B. (2022). Epidemiology of depression among displaced people: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 311, 114493. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2022.114493.

Henkelmann, J. R., de Best, S., Deckers, C., Jensen, K., Shahab, M., Elzinga, B., & Molendijk, M. (2020). Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in refugees resettling in high-income countries: systematic review and meta-analysis. BJPsych Open, 6(4), e68. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2020.54.

WHO. (2023). Depressive disorder (depression) fact sheet. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

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