Miss Melaet Habtay

Research project: Understanding and Re-framing Mental Health Problems among Refugees and Undocumented immigrants in the UK.


Globally, one in eight individuals (nearly a billion people) experience mental health problems, and it is also estimated that one in four adults and one in ten children experience mental health illnesses in England. Mental health problems are an obstacle to social and economic progress of any country, as it costs the world economy around 1 trillion US dollar each year, and it also has been estimated to cost the UK economy between 70–100 billion pounds per year. In the UK and other Western countries, refugees and undocumented immigrants are one of the most vulnerable groups of society that have five times more mental health needs than the general population, but research has shown that most of them experience barriers while accessing mental health services, many of which do not cater for their needs.

By using a qualitative method, this doctorate study aims to explore refugees' and undocumented immigrants' in the UK understanding of mental health disorder. This study will also examine the impact that personal, cultural, socio-political, economic and migration factors can have on seeking treatment and medical help from mental health services. The focus of the study would be to move away from deficit models used in mental health but draw on access-based models to co-produce interventions to improve mental health for refugees and undocumented migrants.


I graduated from Derby University with a BSc in Psychology and a MSc in Clinical application of Psychology from Kingston University in 2020. My MSc thesis addressed protective factors that promote and foster resilience among refugees in the UK, who have experienced considerable hardship and traumatic experiences during their migration and resettlement periods. I have also worked in a range or charities and organisations championing the needs of asylum seekers and refugees including a placement at Newman Catholic college in London Borough of Brent for three months as a mentor for unaccompanied asylum seeker/refugee minors with Paiwand (Afghan Association), working with victims of human trafficking and modern slavery as a case worker in Hestia ( Salvation Army) and more recently as a translator for Clear Voice (Migrant Help).

I am passionate about issues of social justice, equality, inclusion, and diversity. My research interests align with improving mental health for under-served communities and ensuring that health interventions are culturally sensitive to the needs of communities.

Areas of research interest

  • Mental health problems
  • Cross Cultural Mental Health
  • Refugees and undocumented immigrants' mental health
  • Psychological interventions
  • Behavioral change


  • BSc (Hon) in Psychology
  • MSc in Clinical application of Psychology

Funding or awards received

  • Kingston University BME Studentship