Influences on Polish migrants' responses to distress and decisions about whether or not to seek psychological help
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INTRODUCTION Since the expansion of the EU, several hundred thousand people from Eastern European countries have migrated to the UK, the majority of whom are Polish. Although no studies examining utilisation of mental health services by Polish workers in the UK could be found, research suggests that their knowledge of how to access health services is low, while rates of emergency psychiatric treatment are relatively high. The broader migrant literature suggests that migrants can perceive a cultural mismatch between themselves and services, find it difficult to access services due to logistical barriers, and often prefer to seek help from other sources. The current study sought to explore Polish migrants' responses to distress, with a focus on views about accessing psychological services. METHODS A cultural psychology framework using Charmaz's social constructionist method of grounded theory was adopted in the design of the research. Field work was conducted within the Polish community, and semi-structured interviews took place with Polish community members and key informants. Utilising data from a range of sources allowed for triangulation of the data, and credibility was further enhanced by member checking. Data were analysed using guidelines outlined by Charmaz supported by NVivo software. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Participants' responses to distress were congruent with their sense of identity and the norms of the social groups with which they identified. Polish cultural values emphasising family closeness, traditional gender roles and discomfort with difference influenced participants' help-seeking strategies. The majority of participants preferred to seek help from a close inner circle of family and friends, at least in the first instance. Participants from working class rural backgrounds appeared to adhere more strongly to traditional values and often saw psychological services as irrelevant to them, whereas seeing a therapist was viewed as fashionable for those from urban, middle-class social groups. Disappointment with Scottish primary care services led to reluctance to approach the NHS for help with emotional difficulties, while those who were satisfied with their treatment were open to this possibility. Private services were preferred in Poland, which could result in preferences for seeking help from private Polish therapists in Scotland. This may also allow problems to be contained within the broader Polish community in line with Polish cultural values. CONCLUSIONS Clinical psychology services in Scotland may not be well-placed to meet the needs of Polish migrant workers. NHS services should attempt to be more responsive to the needs of migrant groups in order that they are not discouraged from seeking help if required. Furthermore, it may be helpful to find ways of working with other organisations which migrants feel more comfortable approaching.