Objectives: To assess social and educational status, trauma experienced, diagnosis and treatment of asylum seekers, who presented to psychiatrists in St James's hospital Dublin over a two-year period.
Method: All files of asylum seekers assessed by psychiatrists in St James's hospital over a two-year period were scrutinised. Using a pro-forma, data was obtained about social and educational status, language skills, trauma suffered, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Demographic data was obtained from the Department of Justice, the Irish refugee centre and various social welfare offices.
Results: Over a two-year period 31 asylum seekers were in contact with this service. Most originated from Africa. Overall subjects were well educated but socially isolated with poor language skills. Many had been imprisoned or tortured, or had relatives or friends tortured or killed prior to migration. Almost one third met criteria for PTSD and greater than a third met criteria for major depression. The majority of subjects received pharmacological treatment, but few were offered psychological treatments. Most had no prior psychiatric diagnosis and dropped out of treatment at an early stage.
Conclusions: Large numbers of asylum seekers are currently residing in Dublin and may need specialised psychological support and treatment. They have been exposed to significant levels of pre-migratory trauma, often have poor language skills and drop out of treatment quickly which may indicate dissatisfaction with existing treatment approaches. There is an urgent need for increased funding for the psychological needs of this vulnerable group, for the provision of trained interpreters, specialised psychotherapy and assessment of their needs.