Fokumlah: Why do some Africans, Afro-Caribbean immigrants reject psychiatric help in Europe?

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publicerad 30 mars 2019
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Stanley Fokumlah den 22 feb 2019. Foto: Torbjörn Sassersson,

DEBATE – MIGRANT CRISIS. “Saying goodbye to your family and embarking on an uncertain adventure is always a bitter-sweet emotional waterfall. The journey to Europe is always unique for every African”, writes the Fokumlah Nchungong from Cameroon. He has lived in Sweden for ten years, working within health care. At the moment Fokumlah studies psychiatry and he claims many immigrants are in a desperate need of psychiatric help due to PTSD.

By Fokumlah S. Nchungong | Photo by

The reason for traveling varies. From economic migrants, educational purposes, political escapes, societal discomfort,… and so on. The path to arrive at the “Eldorado” is never the same for the adventurers. Both legal and illegal possibilities are exploited. The main objective is the final touch-down in Europe.

Integrating into the adoptive country is usually very slow. Everything is new and strange. Even the stories and images one had heard seem distant from reality. Most often, isolation and loneliness settles in. It is somehow the first time that most would have a taste of depression.

The tolerance ratio of depression in most of our African, Afro-Caribbean countries are minimal. It is not even a consideration. Life in most instances had always been a struggle from birth.


Responsibilities started accumulating at a very tender age. Some people even had to raise themselves to adulthood without elderly guidance. You cannot be depressed. It is everywhere and it’s just but normal to shred it off your thoughts. The ‘silent killer’, but “you have to suck it up!” as they say.

Depression is equated to weakness/laziness. It is by no coincidence that migrants from Africa, the Caribbean, parts of Asia, South America and more, living in Europe, specifically Sweden, don’t even want to talk about it or take it seriously when the effect starts becoming very visible.

Ok, it is just in the beginning. It would be nice to navigate some background checks.

Immigrants seldom seek psychiatric help

Most often, the majority of Africans, Afro-Caribbean’s who migrate here, have never been to a psychologist/psychiatrist. Even those who have been, never talk or want anyone to know about it. Multiple mental hindrances like bi-polar, ADD, ADHD, borderline, manic depression were sidelined to be: stubbornness, clumsiness, selfishness, stupidity and to some extent, categorized as someone being possessed by an evil spirit.

Millions have been growing up with undiagnosed mental illnesses, but the irrelevance attributed to mental care gave them no options than to adapt and adjust (without treatment) in order to be functional in the society. There have been thousands of suicidal cases but mental health issues were seldom tabled as a factor of concern.

Adapting to the mental illness was instinctive and the society was amicable enough for most people to even forget or easily manage their difficulties.

The dynamics are absolutely different here. Support mechanisms in relation to friends, family, and acquaintances are very minimal here. The solitary-living standards are quite strange to the migrants.


Mental symptoms quickly emerge, but the courage to expose these ills are still lacking. Thus, many migrants are mentally degrading without a request for assistance. Effects are often unpleasant.

PTSD is rampant with most migrants

The experiences from violent incidents like wars, civil unrests, imprisonments, gang violence, gorish accidents, treacherous voyages to get to Europe (desserts, forests, rivers, sea, etc.) have everlasting traumatizing scenarios which remain cemented in their minds. Unfortunately, getting help on arrival is not always the priority. The effects are always there and the manifestations vary from person to person.

Many immigrants will eventually integrate into the European society (Sweden as my reference). They will create new acquaintances at schools, workplaces, intimate love relationships and friendships. They might have been settling down physically but their mental state is still unsettled. They miss home! As time goes by, many continue to receive sad/bad news from home. Parents die; siblings get sick, intimate acquaintances get in trouble, -all kinds of trouble. People need help.

The pressure for the immigrants to assist is on a constant rise. Worst still, many are unable to travel back home to pay their homage/farewell or last respects to dead loved ones. The depression is real and deep. No matter how they try to explain themselves to anyone here, nobody can fully understand their hurting hearts. Some turn to alcohol and drugs to numb those sad feelings. It is sinking sand. After prolonged periods of self-medication with substances, addictions take control. They are low in spirit. Their souls bleed.

Unfortunately, relationships had already been created here and the manifestations of mental disturbances become evident. – Why is he/she always acting like that?; – He/she is always angry; – He/she is talking/crying in their sleep; – It seems as if he/she sometimes is blacking out; – He/she is very insensitive; – Never cares; – Egocentric; – Always shouting; – He punched me; – He/she is verbally abusive; – Our child is scared of him/her; – I can’t trust him/her to be alone with our children; – It’s better we live apart; – I can’t handle this; – I just don’t understand him/her; – I know he/she has some issues; – The police has been to our apartment several times; – Lets separate; – Let’s divorce; – Wow, damn! I just don’t know.

Help is available, but it is a tricky situation convincing them about seeking assistance. A majority end up in psychiatric wards when a lot of damage has already been done; sometimes fatal. Who do we blame? Are you responsible for not getting involved in the beginning when you notice some symptoms? There is always a way out! To my fellow immigrants from far and wide, seek help! It is humble.

“Being a lone soldier at the battlefront is heroic, but calling for backup will save your life”

By Fokumlah S. Nchungong


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  • Martin Gustavson, Thanks for your inputs and concern in relation to the ‘Sun’ you mentioned as a source of energy balance to our sanity.
    Ofcourse, energy intake be it from the sun, air, water, animals and plants is vital. It gives the equilibrium we need to survive both physically and mentally.

    My great concern was the imbalances of these energy accumulations when we come to stay or live here. The pressure we have in succeeding quickly becomes nightmarish. Depression normally sinks in followed by other complex psychological matters.
    Finding an immediate solution is not always easy because of the ever present stigmatization associated with mental health.

  • Anders, your write-up “The Africans don’t believe in their medicine,…not an animal like we in the West believe “, packs a punch on stereotypes which might not be valid. The issue is on normalizing or accepting mental disfunctionalities as an ill to be handled with concern.

  • @Fokumlah

    What I found myself is that we should not underestimate the healing power of the sun in the right doses, and deep meditation, in a natural environment.

    Sun is abundant in Africa. It heals in the right intensity and the right doses for our skin and is especially important for people who are made for the warmth of the sun.

    Depression in Sweden kills. It comes from lack of sun. So if you are sad, always go to a place where you are happy and feel relaxed! It can save your life or other peoples life. It is the most precious thing. Calmness and happiness is the source of peace, courage and compassion! With compassion higher awareness is possible.

    Live long and prosper in balance with your nature and the sun, my african friend! You deserve it and so does your friends and all of nature.

    “Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims.”
    /Martin Luther King

  • When it comes to psychiatry the African (I think) don´t believe in their “medicine” and electroshock`s.
    I think they still have the ability to know that a human is his soul, not an animal like we in the west believe.

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