Psychiatrists identify 'asylum seeker syndrome' - Yahoo!7
A group of Australian psychiatrists has identified a new mental illness syndrome unique to asylum seekers.
The group is presenting its evidence on Prolonged Asylum Seekers Syndrome at an international psychiatry conference in Hobart.
It was identified after studying the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees living in Melbourne.
Major depression was diagnosed in more than 60 per cent of asylum seekers and about 30 per cent of refugees.
Associate Professor Suresh Sundram, from the University of Melbourne, says asylum seekers who had their applications rejected repeatedly showed clinical symptoms not seen before.
"It's people who are being subjected to protracted periods of refugee determination, so ones who are not getting quick responses," he said.
"But maybe even more importantly, it's people who are being repeatedly rejected and have continued to press claims for protection.
"They seem to be especially vulnerable.
"We have talked about this syndrome before but it is becoming increasingly clear that it appears to be distinct from anything else that we have been seeing."
Psychiatrists say the latest evidence shows asylum seekers should be allowed to live in the community to improve their wellbeing.
"The refugee determination process in Australia seems to contribute to the prevalence of post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) in asylum seekers insofar as asylum seekers who have had four or more rejections for protection visas, the level of PTSD correlates with the number of rejections that they have had," Associate Professor Sundram said.
"Those asylum seekers who seem to have a protracted process of refugee determination, they seem to demonstrate clinical features that we haven't seen before and certainly seem to characterise a unique, or distinct, syndrome from other people who have been through similar types of traumas.
"We've coined the term to best describe this subgroup of asylum seekers who've had this protracted and difficult refugee determination process."
He says Australia does not have adequate services to deal with the problem because it is not well understood or recognised within the public mental health system.
An Iranian man who waited for four years to have his refugee status approved has backed the findings.
Mohsen Sultani was approved in 2004 and says he still suffers mental anguish, as do many people who were in his situation.
"They don't know anything about (their) future and on top of that the Government accused them of (being) a queue jumper, children overboard, all this stuff...it is absolutely a nightmare," he said.