Bridging between worlds in Switzerland – the promise of transcultural psychiatry

Author: Svĕt Lustig

This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.

In 2015, when Amadou, a fifteen-year-old Guinean boy, reached Switzerland, he was hospitalized with strong antipsychotic medications. He had developed life-threatening depression, suicidal behavior, and severe bouts of psychosis.

Just five years later, in 2020, his life is strikingly different. He has made many friends, goes to work every day, and can afford to live in his own flat. He says the reason is his psychiatrist, who delivers culturally appropriate mental health care for migrants, also known as ‘transcultural psychiatry’.“My psychiatrist saved my life,” says Amadou. “Before him, I wanted to commit suicide, and without him, I would not be speaking with you right now.

“If I had to tell you everything he’s done for me, we would end up speaking all night. He helped me find a job, get my driver’s license, and most importantly, he gave me the courage to call my mother for the first time in three years.”

Amadou’s story reflects the rough reality that many migrants face as they reach places like Switzerland, the country with the largest share of migrants in the whole of Europe.


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