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Irregular Migration and Mental Health

An ethnographic study of mental health among undocumented migrants in Norway and at the Health Center for Undocumented Migrants.

About the project

This doctoral research project has employed an ethnographic method to explore mental health among undocumented migrants in Norway and the living conditions and life circumstances within which it is implicated. The project has been conducted in close collaboration with the Health Center for Undocumented Migrants, throughout a three-year mental health service initiative that was simultaneously developed and implemented there. This entailed a unique form of partnership and collective process of experiential learning between and among the research team, the Health Center, and the Health Center’s service users, in the interest of better understanding the experiences, priorities, needs and resources of undocumented migrants and how these might be understood, addressed and mobilized throughout evolving service developments, collaborative networks, and grassroots efforts.

Empirically and theoretically, this project is inspired by an anthropology of mental health that lends attention to the subjective and embodied mental health experience, the broad range of cultural, social and political phenomena that it encompasses, historical and cross-cultural manifestations of mental health problems and healing activities, and the cultures and histories of the biomedical psychiatric institution itself. This project is also inspired by a number of emerging trends throughout a dynamically evolving, critical scholarship on irregular migration.


This project commenced in 2011. At that time, the current state of knowledge suggested that unique mental health vulnerabilities might be found among undocumented migrants in Norway, with respect to both their asylum-seeking backgrounds and precarious present-day circumstances. Experiences at the Health Center for Undocumented Migrants, which had opened just two years prior, confirmed not only that mental health was important, but also that mental health service provision in this context was challenging. Hence, a three-year mental health service initiative at the Health Center and this doctoral research project were collaboratively and simultaneously developed and implemented.


  • Institute of Health and Society, UiO


  • The Church City Mission, Oslo
  • The Health Center for Undocumented Migrants in Oslo

Start - finish

2011 - 2020

Published Apr. 29, 2014 1:02 PM - Last modified Aug. 28, 2020 11:24 AM