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The Peer MIST Project and Physical Movement for Wellbeing

13 May 2024
Picture provided by Centre for Victims of Torture showing Sanctuary seekers taking part in physical activity.

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is Movement. The aim to highlight the important role that movement of any kind for promoting good mental health and wellbeing. We know that physical movement can help improve mental health because of the biopsychosocial model. All that means is that our body, mind, and environment can impact each other and influences our health and wellbeing. Most people are familiar with the experience of feeling stressed and having tight shoulders. This is the biopsychosocial model in action.

Research shows that up to 50% of sanctuary, those who are refugees and asylum seekers, have experienced trauma and have poor mental health because of their experiences. Accessing healthcare for their physical and mental health is challenging because of barriers around culture, language, mental health stigma, and even a physical limitation or pain that prevents someone from sitting for long period. The great thing about using movement for mental health, is that can address those barriers around stigma, language, or physical limitations. For Sanctuary seekers taking part in physical activity can be the first step on a journey for developing good mental health and wellbeing.

Picture provided by Centre for Victims of Torture showing Sanctuary seekers taking part in physical activity.

The Peer MIST project is hoping to use the power of movement to help those seeking sanctuary in the UK who have experienced trauma to develop the skills to manage their own physical and mental health and improve their wellbeing. The project aims to adapt an existing intervention that is delivered by physiotherapists, so that it can be delivered in partnership with sanctuary seekers themselves. To do this we are going to use co-production methodology. We are going to work together with sanctuary seekers, NHS staff, and charity staff to achieve the project’s aims. Together we will explore how to embed the intervention within the current healthcare system, develop the intervention material and support system, and make sure that the intervention is acceptable and accessible to refugees and asylum seekers. We hope that this project can improve the lives of a group of people who are significantly underserved in healthcare.

For more information about the project email