Asylum seekers are a vulnerable group in society. They often arrive in the UK in a state of poor health, many having experienced serious trauma in their home countries that has forced them to flee. As a result, psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder are prevalent.
There is a significant lack of research into the mental health of asylum seekers in the UK. Failings in diagnosing mental disorders can often conceal the issue and studies carried out on refugees do not give an accurate representation of the asylum seeker demographic. The aim of this report is to investigate the occurrence and progression of PTSD in asylum seekers and to discuss the possible risk factors through reviewing relevant literature and obtaining evidence from direct contact with asylum seekers.
A literature review was carried out, including significant background reading into current asylum seeker issues and an Internet search of the databases MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO. Specific criteria were used to elucidate relevant articles to post-traumatic stress disorder in asylum seekers. Visiting various asylum centres provided first-hand accounts of the troubles asylum seekers face.
Two articles were reviewed, each documenting the high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in asylum seekers. Direct contact in asylum centres revealed personal worries that could be relevant to PTSD onset. Symptoms were shown to deteriorate upon exposure to certain risk factors upon arrival in the UK including detainment, the stresses of the asylum process, unemployment, a lack of social support and failings in health provision. Symptoms were shown to improve when asylum status was obtained.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is prevalent in asylum seekers. Symptoms of sufferers often get worse upon arrival into the UK, their health needs not being met and disorders being left undiagnosed and untreated. There still remains much research to be done in relation to the health needs of asylum seekers in the UK and the extent to which exposure to certain risk factors can aggravate conditions. It is however certain that much improvement in screening and mental health support is required to deal with the problem.