Asylum seekers’ needs ‘not met’

TEAMS of specialists to provide psychological services to asylum seekers who suffer from complex mental health problems still have not been set up, as recommended by a 2008 report.

In a special report on the topic, the College of Psychiatry of Ireland recommended that multidisciplinary teams with an interest in the mental health of asylum seekers should be established in urban centres.

The report noted that the mental health care of asylum seekers requires skills “not normally found in a conventional mental health setting” and pointed out the needs of asylum seekers did not feature in A Vision for Change, a reform document for mental health services.

“Asylum seekers have higher levels of psychopathology than the general population. They suffer higher rates of anxiety and depressive disorders than other sections of society. They have up to 10 times the level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to the indigenous population,” the report said.

However, to date no such specialist team exists, and services to help refugees and asylum seekers recover from the psychological problems, including torture, are “almost absent”.

Another study recently published in the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine concludes that changes to the asylum system would “at a stroke” improve the psychological harm the system can inflict.

Written by psychiatrists Dr Niall Crumlish and Dr Pat Bracken, the review says that enforcing a strict upper limit on the amount of time asylum seekers must wait for a decision, dismantling the inhumane system of direct provision and dispersal, and giving asylum seekers the right to work would be ways to do this.


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