The provision of mental health services to immigrants and refugees in Italy: the barriers and facilitating factors experienced by mental health workers

G. Griffiths 1, I. Tarricone 2 3, Study group *

1 University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Bristol, United Kingdom; 2 Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Alma Mater Studiorum, Psychiatry Unit, Bologna University, Italy; 3 Department of Mental Health and Pathological Addictions, Local Health Trust, Bologna, Italy *Study group: D. Berardi 2 3, I. Donegani 3, A. Fioritti 3, R. Maisto 2, M. Braca 2 3, M. Menchetti 2 3, L. Tonti 3, M. Nolet 3, A. Piazza 3, V. Spigonardo 3


To explore the barriers and facilitating factors to the provision of mental health services to immigrants and refugees by exploring the experiences of mental health workers (MHWs.)


A qualitative study was performed in May 2013 in a city in the Emilia Romagna region. Participants were recruited using purposive sampling and 14 semi-structured interviews were performed with MHWs. Framework Analysis was used to interpret the data.


Five facilitating factors were identified: language skill of patients, involvement of patients’ family, specialist cultural psychiatric services, voluntary services and organisation of the mental health system. 

Five barriers were identified: patients’ perceptions, lack of family support, cultural knowledge of MHWs,  language skill of MHWs and funding of the mental health system.


The barriers and facilitating factors identified reflect findings from research in both European and non-European countries. Nevertheless, the results of this study highlight the fact that a national mental health policy for immigrants and refugees needs to be implemented alongside cultural competence training programmes and specialist cultural psychiatric services.

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