Australia receives about 4000 refugees each year – a figure that has remained roughly constant since 1997.
of these people arrive having left scenarios of life-threatening fear and
terror, firstly in their homeland, and then in the countries they flee
through in the hope of finding peace and security for themselves and their
is the only country in the world that imposes mandatory indefinite
detention for asylum seekers who arrive without permission. The detention
of men women and children in camps staffed by guards will continue for as
long as it takes for each case to be heard. That sometimes equates to
years. At the end of the day about 90 percent are accepted as genuine
according to UniSA’s Associate
Professor Nicholas Procter, a specialist in mental health and in
particular the impacts of the refugee experience, getting out does not
necessarily spell the end of anguish and depression for a refugee.
asylum seekers and refugees have differing experiences overall, it is
utterly simplistic to assume that survival or escape is the end of the
refugee story,” Prof Procter says.
people don’t make the decision to leave their homeland lightly – for a
large percentage of refugees the alternative to leaving is persecution or
many are already poor and disempowered, they often have to make some of
the most difficult choices imaginable, such as who in the family should
escape and who should be left behind. So that sometimes a mother and young
children will arrive knowing her husband, father and older children are
still in danger or a teenager will arrive never knowing if his or her
family has survived.
is hard for the average Australian to imagine what this would be like and
I think its very easy to see their plight as something that happens to
other people – people not like us.
But from a mental health perspective they are exactly like us –
vulnerable under stress, scared and often grieving for the loss of home
Procter says it is difficult for new arrivals to adjust to their new
country in the best of circumstances – but if the stress and insecurity
continues, as it often does for refugees, their chances of longer term
depression and mental health problems increases.
released from detention if they don’t find work and are not supported by
social networks it is common for sadness and depression to take hold,”
success is stalled and they remain unemployed or isolated for too long
they will slow down, become deeply lonely and depressed often feeling like
complete outsiders in the community.
This situation is made worse in the face of hostile media headlines
and comments that do not nurture good relationships with the host
Procter believes the successful settlement of refugees who have come to
Australia seeking asylum will only be achieved through a more efficient
processing of applications and a stronger commitment to providing
sensitive health, care and support services.
health and care settings we see refugees who have often reached crisis in
terms of their distress and depression,” he said.
mental health professionals we attempt to help new refugees make sense of
a sometimes hostile world by building trust. That can only come from
listening to their needs, hearing their problems, fears and past
experiences with open ears and developing an approach that is culturally
and individually sensitive.”
Media contact: Michèle Nardelli (08) 8302 0966 or 041