Last Monday, September 11, we welcomed the author of the “Ulysses Syndrome,” Prof. Dr. Joseba Achotegui from the University of Barcelona to the Center for Basque Studies. He is the General Secretary of the Transcultural Section at the World Psychiatric Association, a psychiatrist, and tenured professor. He has also been the Director of SAPPIR (Psychopathological and Psychosocial Support Service for Immigrants and Refugees) at the Hospital of Sant Pere Claver in Barcelona, and Director of the online postgraduate course”Mental health, cultural processes and psychological interventions with immigrants, minorities, and the socially excluded” at the University of Barcelona since 1997. The purpose of his visit was to explain the “Ulysses Syndrome,” its consequences and possible solutions.
The Ulysses Syndrome has become more common in the 21st century with the increase in the migration of individuals. He explained how migrating today is becoming a process that is so intense and stressful for millions of people that they are unable to overcome these difficulties. Because of this inability to adapt to their new countries, these individuals are the candidates for the Ulysses Syndrome (with reference to the Greek hero who suffered countless adversities and dangers far from his loved ones). He argued that even though Ulysses was a demigod, he barely survived the terrible adversities and dangers of his journey. Extrapolating The Odyssey to those individuals who enter new surroundings and suffer the difficulties of integration, Achotegui has set out a diagnosis for mental health problems that are not pathological.
The set of symptoms that make up this syndrome are now an emerging mental health problem in the host countries of immigrants. He described the most important stressors as: the forced separation of loved ones, a rupture in the attachment instinct, the feeling of hopelessness due to the failure of the migration project and the lack of opportunities, and the struggle for survival. He mentioned different steps and ways to help these migrants who go through Ulysses Syndrome, such as breathing and relaxation techniques, physical exercise, eating habits and positive thinking. All these thing can help in their adaptation process.
It was a very interesting presentation for many of us who immigrated to the United States. Thankfully, the CBS and its team make the transition as comfortable as possible, however, there will always be challenges when facing new situations. It definitely gave a perspective of how previous and current immigrants struggle for survival and integration in their new host countries.