International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Supporting Mental Health Services for Traumatized Refugees

The IRC Public Health programs in Baltimore and Silver Spring have partnered with the new Refugee Mental Health program of the Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, to ensure resettled refugees and asylees are able to access timely and culturally sensitive mental health care.
Most recently, several community interpreters participated in a training focused on provision of professional interpretation in a mental health setting.  The training was hosted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on October 24-26, 2012 in Baltimore.  "The training was developed and facilitated by Sajit Greene, M.A. and Sarah Combs, PhD.  Ms. Greene and Dr. Combs previously worked as clinicians at Rocky Mountain Survivors Center, in Denver, Colorado, where they trained interpreters who worked with survivors of torture and war trauma."


In total, the training reached 29 interpreters in the Baltimore and Suburban Washington areas, including 6 IRC community interpreters in Baltimore, most of whom are former refugee clients themselves.  Additionally, participants in the training included interpreters with the Baltimore Medical Systems Highlandtown Healthy Living Center, Johns Hopkins Medical System, Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network [FIRN], Howard County Health Department, as well as community interpreters from the IRC office in Silver Spring.
This three day training familiarized the participants with:


• The role of the interpreter and the ethical obligations of interpreting;
• The practice settings and types of mental health care;
• The various types of mental health providers;
• The DSM-IV axes and common diagnoses;
• The concept of psychotherapy and its various branches;
• Cultural conceptions of mental health;
• The use of prescription medication in mental health settings and the importance of accurate interpretation;
• The use of group work in therapeutic settings, and the unique challenges of interpreting for group therapy; 
• Self care when interpreting in mental health settings.


Ismail Abdelrahaman, a refugee from Sudan, was one of the 29 interpreters trained.  Mr. Abdelrahaman reflected on the recent training that he received and said that in his culture, “we believe that if you interact with people that have mental health issues, they will pass them onto you. Even I believed this before the training today.” Mr. Abdelrahaman added that the mental health interpreter training “gives me the inspiration to help people because I come from a community of post traumatized people. This training will help me to work with people to help them resolve their mental health issues.”