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The Mental Health of Asylum Seekers: trauma, post-migration stress, treatment and clinical outcomes

The Mental Health of Asylum Seekers: trauma, post-migration stress, treatment and clinical outcomes

The last two decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in the numbers of asylum seekers arriving at the borders of high income countries. Polices of deterrence implemented by most governments result in asylum seekers being subject to a range of highly restrictive immigration policies that make their resettlement experiences different in a number of important ways from refugees who arrive with permanent residence. The first generation of mental health research with asylum seekers investigated the intersection between trauma and ongoing daily stressors in mediating mental health. The findings of this research established the post-migration environment as a critical factor in determining mental health outcomes. More recently mental health professionals and researchers have aimed to develop clinical models and services that to support asylum seekers and other populations with insecure residency and ongoing threat.

The talk reviews some of these models and any emerging evidence regarding the effectiveness of treatment for asylum seekers. Another major focus of research with asylum seekers has related to the intersection between mental health impairment and refugee decision making. Asylum seekers with mental health impairments display a number of impairments that may adversely impact on their capacity in asylum interviews. Recently there has been a move to develop guidelines to improve the procedural fairness of refugee claims assessment for psychologically vulnerable asylum applicants most recently by UNHCR. This is a particularly topic of high relevance as their remains a large number of asylum seekers that have had their refugee claims on hold in Australia for extended periods of time who are currently undergoing their refugee determination process.