Many Immigrants Seeking U.S. Asylum Suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Advocates Say
Many immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. have post-traumatic stress disorder and those with severe cases "can be in denial about what happened to them" in their home countries, "avoid overwhelming memories, or refuse treatment because of lingering fears of past dealings with powerful institutions," according to advocates, the Boston Globe reports. As of December 2007, about 151,200 people in the U.S. were classified as refugees and seeking asylum, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
PTSD and depression are prevalent among asylum seekers who have fled war, torture or other trauma in their home countries, according to the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights. PTSD "complicates immigrants' quest to gain asylum ... because of the difficulty sufferers may have in recounting their stories and making them credible before an immigration court," the Globe reports. Sometimes multiple therapy sessions are needed to build a complete story of the asylum seeker's past.
Lin Piwowarczyk, co-director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, said asylum seekers need a holistic approach to therapy. The program incorporates psychotherapy and medication into PTSD treatment. "We strive to address their needs ... before delving into sensitive issues as their trauma," she said (Manrique, Boston Globe, 3/9).