Saturday 24 February 2018

Psychiatric services 'not able' for refugees

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The body representing psychiatrists has warned the Department of Health that there is not enough capacity in Ireland's mental health services to deal with asylum seekers and refugees.

The warning comes as Ireland prepares to accept 350 people displaced by the Syrian conflict this year and 4,000 in the coming years.

Letters from the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland also claim asylum seekers present with more physical illnesses linked to mental health issues.

The college's director of communications, Dr John Hillery, told the department's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, that there was a lack of planning for the mental health needs of refugees coming to Ireland.

In a letter sent last September, he said recent interaction between the college and the HSE suggested that "no thought at all has gone into planning for the special needs of this population."

Dr Hillery said there was evidence asylum seekers and refugees were more likely to present with "psychosomatic issues indicating underlying mental ill health".

He said it was likely that both primary care and mental health services will see increased activity in areas where the refugees settle. "In a system already under strain, failure to plan for this will be damaging," he said.

In a letter the same month to an assistant secretary at the department, Dr Hillery said the psychiatric care of all refugees who seek help would not succeed with the resources currently available.

He also said he was concerned with the assumption that the planned influx of refugees could be absorbed by the mental health services.

A working group found asylum seekers suffered higher rates of anxiety than other sections of society.

Irish Independent

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