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Demographic characteristics of survivors of torture presenting for treatment to a national centre for survivors of torture in Ireland (2001–2012)

  • R. M. Duffy (a1), S. O’Sullivan (a2), G. Straton (a3), B. Singleton (a4) and B. D. Kelly (a5)...
Abstract
Objectives

The asylum process has received a lot of recent media attention but little has been said about the psychological needs of those seeking or granted asylum. Many asylum seekers have experienced trauma and torture, which is associated with substantial psychiatric and psychological morbidity. The Spiritan Asylum Services Initiative (Spirasi) is Ireland’s national treatment centre for survivors of torture. The aim of this study was to examine the demographic profile of those attending Spirasi and to consider potential clinical implications of this.

Methods

We retrospectively analysed demographic data relating to the 2590 individuals who attended Spirasi over a 12-year period (2001–2012 inclusive).

Results

The majority of attenders were asylum seekers (88%), male (71%) and from African countries. The mean age was 31.9 years. The rate of new referrals, as a percentage of Ireland’s asylum-seeking population, has stabilised at ~6% since 2008. Women are underrepresented among those who attend.

Conclusions

The number of new referrals to Spirasi is lower than expected given international estimates of torture prevalence and the impact this has on mental health. Clinicians working with populations of asylum seekers and refugees should sensitively enquire about such events and be aware of the available services. Female refugees and asylum seekers are underrepresented, especially from Asian and Middle Eastern regions. Psychiatric, psychological and general practice services need to respond flexibly to evolving patterns of migration and address potential barriers to access, especially among female refugees and asylum seekers.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr R. M. Duffy, Senior Registrar in General Adult Psychiatry, Cluain Mhuire Services, Newtownpark Ave, Blackrock, A94 H9T1 Co. Dublin, Ireland. (Email: duffyrm@gmail.com)
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Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0790-9667
  • EISSN: 2051-6967
  • URL: /core/journals/irish-journal-of-psychological-medicine
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