The problems faced by immigrants at the Vogur rehab center in Iceland need a wide-ranging response, according to addictions doctor Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir at the hospital. Many foreign nationals at the center can speak neither Icelandic nor English.
Every week there are new people seeking help at the rehab hospital who cannot speak Icelandic or English, and many of them have other problems to deal with as well, Valgerður told RÚV.
“The problem is big and growing, no question it needs a holistic approach to fix it,” she says. “We are always here at Vogur with open doors for detox and they come here and receive the services of course, all the rehabilitation, detoxification and counselling through interpreters, but it is not nearly enough. There needs to be support in society. They don’t have the sort of recovery support system that the Icelanders here in treatment do.”
Valgerður says that most people have been given information on the resources available at social services, but that it is very obvious that those who can’t speak Icelandic or English have a harder time getting information. The language barrier literally damages the rehab process.
Vogur’s rehab treatments are based largely around group work, group discussions and private counselling, which makes it harder when not everybody can understand, Valgerður says—adding that they often involve interpreters in sessions when there are more than two or three people who would benefit.
It is a widely-known story that Iceland’s booming economy attracted a lot of foreign workers—some of whom then turned to drugs and alcohol during the financial crisis. Valgerður says the problem lies not only on the individuals affected, but on all of society: “This is our problem. This is a societal problem. We have to deal with it and do much better and I hope we succeed.” Dealing with the problem properly will take money and will need to involve the authorities, she says.