Getting out of (self-) harm’s way: A study of factors associated with self-harm among asylum seekers in Australian immigration detention

Author(s): Kyli HEDRICK

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jflm.2017.05.014

Abstract

The monitoring of self-harm among asylum seekers in Australian immigration detention has not occurred routinely or transparently. Thus whilst concerns regarding rates of self-harm among asylum seekers have been frequently raised, a paucity of systematic information regarding key factors associated with self-harm among asylum seekers exists. The present study was designed therefore to fill a number of gaps in government monitoring by examining the government’s own archived self-harm data. Via a descriptive analysis of self-harm incident reports from all operational Australian immigration detention facilities over a 20-month period to May 2011, obtained under Freedom of Information, the present study identified that 959 incidents of self-harm occurred during this period. A gender bias towards men was also found. In addition to this, 10 different methods of self-harm were identified, the four most common being: cutting (47%), attempted hanging (19%), head hitting (12%) and self-poisoning by medication (6%). Seven different precipitating factors for self-harm were also identified, the four most common were: detention conditions (39%), processing arrangements (27%), negative decisions (24%) and family separation (3%). These findings point strongly to the health benefits of considering alternatives to held immigration detention, such as community based processing.

Keywords

Asylum seekers; Self-harm; Immigration detention; Refugees; Australia

Tags: Australia, Asylum seekers, Refugees, Failed Asylum Seekers, Self-harm, Suicidality, Immigration detention, Family separation

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