Mental health difficulties among migrants: experiences of recognition and treatment


Due to an increasing social relevance of international migration at national and global levels and increasing restrictiveness of migration policies as a significant source of uncertainties and distress that migrants experience, it is not surprising that scientific as well as political interest in the topic of migration and mental health has risen in the last few decades. The topic has been addressed both in epidemiological studies of prevalence and risk factors as well as in research that has addressed also the socio-political context both in countries of emigration and immigration that can have an impact on the experience and coping with such distress. In this respect, the aim of the proposed project is to ensure a better informed explanation of mental  health of migrants than the one evidenced by extant public health and epidemiological evidence. Therefore, the main activity of the project will be a qualitatively designed field work research between stakeholders and professional workers in the field of migration and/or mental health and among migrants themselves. The aim of the research among migrants is to research how socio-political circumstances that define the position of migrants in the new countries, such as, for example the increasing securitisation and restrictiveness of migration policies, the processes of precarisation of labour and employment, discrimination and stigmatisation of migrants, difficulties in socio-economic integration, etc., have an impact on the uncertainties and distresses of individual migrants, how they understand, explain, experience and make meaning of them and which obstacles they perceive in access to relevant professional services and last but not least, how they cope with such distress and uncertainties. The results will be a basis for practical results of the project – a leaflet on recognition in treatment of mental health difficulities among migrants for professionals in health and social care and a multilingual leaflet for migrants on the topic of mental health difficulties. In the conceptual sense, the proposed project draws mainly on the tradition of critical social work and culturally informed psychiatry that places mental distress in the context of structural inequalities, suffering and differences in social power, but also agency, skills and active coping with distress. In this sense, the research will offer a reflection on the prevailing categories of illness and symptomatics that may not be relevant for particular individuals, but may bear a decisive impact on the modes of looking for help and support.

Project steps

Project phases and their realisation

The project group will carry out the project research in three years. The time plan is organised in the following work packages (WP): 

WP Project management and internal communication: M1-M36 is ensured by a kick-off meeting of the project group, working meetings in situ and through different web tools, which will also include a regular reading of the relevant literature in order to discussand confront the different epistemologies and viewpoints, the preparation of one mid-term and one final report, the creation of internal web and other channels of communication for the implementation of field work, collection of data and its appropriate storage and through a financial and administrative follow-up and support to project activities.  

Research work package WP 1 State of the art (approaches, policies and practices): M1-M24. The work within the work package Stare of the art will mostly be carried out within the first year of the project (M1-M12), as the existing practices and policies will also form a basis for a thematic design of the field work. The review of existing research and practices will mostly be carried out in year 1 (M1-M12), but will, in the second year of research (M13-M24) focus on the information needed for the preparation of the leaflets. Within the work package, a review of the relevant literature on migration and mental health will be carried out in the first year of the project (M1-M12) from the viewpoint of different disciplines (social work, sociology, anthropology, political studies, medicine – psychiatry, psychology). The review and analysis of the literature will be a continued activity throughout the entire project.  

Research work package 2 WP 2 – Fieldwork will, in its first phase (M5-M12) encompass a preliminary procedure for coming into contact with participants in the study, the identification of key research subjects of both phases of field work research (expert interviews and interviews with migrants), that will be adapted continuously to field work findings, the organisation and logistics of field work and a more detailed distribution of tasks among the project group. The field work phase will mostly be carried out in the second and in the beginning of the third year of the project (M13-M28) and will encompass, besides the interviews also the participation at relevant events, a simultaneous transcription and content analysis of the gathered material, the keeping of ethnographic diaries and a continuous adaptation and upgrade of research content and issues. In the last year (M25-M32) the final analysis of the gathered material will be conducted.  

Research practical (applicative) work package WP 3 will include a Leaflet for professionals in health and social care sectors on mental health difficulties among migrants (M25-M36) and a multilingual Leaflet on mental health difficulties for migrants (M29-M36).  

The leaflets will be prepared on the basis on analysis within WP 1 and WP 2. 

Work package Dissemination and external communication (M1-M36) will include, besides the dissemination activities of the practical work package (WP 3 – leaflets) a preparation of at least six scientific articles (for an edited scientific monograph and/or scientific journals), at least two professional articles and at least six presentations of the project and its results at scientific and professional conferences, roundtables, trainings, workshops, etc. and a continued transfer of knowledge into the pedagogical process of participating researchers. A final roundtable event for both researchers as well as professionals and stakeholders in the field of mental health and/or migration will be organised in the last year of the project (month 29-36).

Bibliographical references

ŠPRAH, Lilijana, CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja. Poročilo raziskave o izvorih javne stigme in vplivu samostigme na iskanje strokovne pomoči na področju duševnega zdravja (Report on the research on public stigma origins and the impact of self-stigma on professional help-seeking in the field of mental health). Ljubljana: ZRC SAZU, Družbenomedicinski inštitut, 2021. 78 pp. [COBISS.SI-ID 96975619]

CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja. COVID-19 and migration in the Western Balkans : the case of people on the move and migrant workers in agriculture : lecture at the International Conference Migration, Development and Diaspora in the Western Balkans, 3rd Panel, Tirana and online, 28. oct. 2021. [COBISS.SI-ID 88487939]

CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja, KNEŽEVIĆ HOČEVAR, Duška. Strukturne ranljivosti delavcev migrantov v kmetijstvu (Structural vulnerabilities of migrant workers in agriculture). Glasnik Slovenskega etnološkega društva. [Tiskana izd.]. 2022, 62, no. 2, pp. 70-80. ISSN 0351-2908. [COBISS.SI-ID 130536707], [SNIP] Available at:

CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja. Stigma in ovire pri iskanju pomoči med begunci in begunkami = Stigma and barriers to help seeking among refugees. In: ŠPRAH, Lilijana (ed.). Od seznanjenosti s težavami v duševnem zdravju do učinkovitega odzivanja z manj stigme: zdaj je čas, da znanje prenesemo v prakso! = From mental health awareness to effective responses with less stigma: now is the time to put knowledge into practice!. 1. izd. Ljubljana: Založba ZRC, 2022. pp. 183-193. ISBN 978-961-05-0675-1. DOI: 10.3986/9789610506768_13. [COBISS.SI-ID 123119619] Available at:

BOFULIN, Martina. Tolmačenje in medkulturna mediacija:(igra vlog): delavnica v okviru strokovnega izobraževanja izvajalcev medkulturne mediacije v organizaciji NIJZ (Interpreting and intercultural mediation (role play): workshop within the training for intercultural mediators organised by the National Institute of Public Health, 11. mar. 2022, Ljubljana. [COBISS.SI-ID 101395715]

CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja. Migracije in duševne stiske: vodenje delavnice v okviru projekta Aktivni odnosi 2 - opolnomočenje in socialna aktivacija migrantskih žensk (Migration and mental distress: workshop within the project Active relationships: empowerment and social activation of female migrants), Društvo ODNOS (Association ODNOS), 5. apr. 2022, Ljubljana. [COBISS.SI-ID 105108739]

CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja. Duševno zdravje migrantov in migrantk - med miti in realnostjo (Migrants' mental health: between myths and reality): lecture at the final conference of the OMRA Programme, Atrij ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana, 10. oct. 2022. [COBISS.SI-ID 125198083] Available at:

CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja, GODEC, Jasmina. Duševno zdravje migrantov in migrantk (Migrants' mental health): Radio Agora, Celovec, podcast Agora Divan, 22. oct. 2022. [COBISS.SI-ID 131129859] Available at:

BASKAR, Bojan, CUKUT KRILIĆ, Sanja, JANKO SPREIZER, Alenka, ZALAR, Vita, PALAIĆ, Tina, LIČEN, Daša. Etnološki večer o rasizmu (Ethnological evening on racism): Slovenski etnografski muzej, Ljubljana, 4. Oct. 2022. [COBISS.SI-ID 124394243]


mental health

Research areas
Criminology S160
Sociology S210