Impact of immigration detention and temporary protection on the mental health of refugees

Authors : Zachary STEEL, Derrick SILOVE, Robert BROOKS, Shakeh MOMARTIN, Bushra ALZUHAIRI, Ina SUSLJIK

http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/bjprcpsych/188/1/58.full.pdf

Abstract

Background : Over the past decade, developed Western countries have supplied increasingly stringent measures to discourage those seeking asylum.

Aims : To investigate the longer-term mental health effects of mandatory detention and subsequent temporary protection on refugees.

Method : Lists of names provided by community leaders were supplemented by snowball sampling to recruit 241 Arabic – speaking Mandaean refugees in Sydney (60% of the total adult Mandaean population). Interviews assessed post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive episodes, and indices of stress related to past trauma, detention and temporary protection.

Results : A multilevel model which included age, gender, family clustering, pre-migration trauma and length of residency revealed that past immigration detention and ongoing temporary protection each contributed independently to risk of ongoing PTSD, depression and mental health-related disability. Longer detention was associated with more severe mental disturbance, an effect that persisted for an average of 3 years after release.

Conclusions : Policies of detention and temporary protection appear to be detrimental to the longer-term mental health of refugees.

 

Key words : asylum seeking, mental health, refugees, PTSD, depression, detention

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