Greens Western Australia on Refugees and Mental Health – Detention policies run risk of creating mentally ill future Australians-Greens

Detention policies run risk of creating mentally ill future Australians-Greens

29 June 2011

Last night in Parliament, Greens MLC Alison Xamon warned that the current policy position of locking up asylum seekers was running a serious risk of creating a future cohort of Australians with serious mental health issues. The comments came after recent research released in NSW indicated that asylum seekers who had been left in prolonged detention were emerging with more serious mental health issues than when they arrived.

“When Vietnamese refugees arrived in the 70’s, the Government policy strategy was to promote calm and to focus on swift resettlement. These people were, like many current refugees, extremely traumatised, having escaped terrible fear and persecution. Yet because of the way their resettlement was handled their prospects for maintaining positive mental health were found to have remained high, despite having experienced great trauma,” Ms Xamon Greens WA Spokesperson for Mental Health said.

A young Vietnamese refugee in a camp in Malaysia

Image via Wikipedia

Ms Xamon’s comments were made in response to research from Professor Derrick Silove from the School of Psychiatry in NSW who has been heading up studies looking at the long-term impacts of detention on refugees and their mental health.

“40 years later, instead of treating our refugees with compassion, we’re locking them away for long periods in detention centres. This is mainly due to the disgusting and shameless way in which the whole issue has been allowed to be politicised.

“Studies show that prolonged detention has a huge impact on detainees’ mental health, especially the children. Depression, post-traumatic stress, separation anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, suicidal ideation and self-harm, to name a few , were all dramatically increased in children as a direct result of prolonged detention.

“How on earth do we justify doing this to children? Or to their parents? Or to any human being? We should be focussing on helping these people to get over their horrific experiences, not adding to their trauma.

“There is accruing scientific evidence of the harm that detention is having on refugees. These are vulnerable people, leaving unimaginable circumstances. They risk their lives to come here, only to be detained indefinitely once they arrive. It’s no wonder there are unprecedented levels of suicide and self harm occurring in our detention centres.

“We need to release these people into community accommodation, as they do elsewhere in the world, and start showing them a bit of compassion before the situation deteriorates any further,” added Ms Xamon.

For further comment contact Alison 9272 1718

Hon Alison Xamon MLC

Member for the East Metropolitan Region

Office: 62 Eighth Ave Maylands WA 6051

Postal Address: PO Box 104 Maylands WA 6931

Phone: (08) 9272 1718

Fax: (08) 9272 1719

Portfolios: Water, Urban Bushland, Mental Health, Education, Training, Industrial Relations, Employment, Occupational Health & Safety, Disabilities, Women, Children & Youth, Public Service, Community Services, Electoral Affairs, Consumer Protection, Vet Affairs, Volunteering

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