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Migrant Trauma Forces Advancement In Therapy

Refugees often suffer from PTSD

(Mirror Daily, United States) – It’s been an increasingly worse problem within the past decade, as migrant trauma forces advancement in therapy from numerous psychologists. Existing therapies might need a modification to alleviate and comfort the needs of patients suffering from traumatic experiences trigged in war-riddled areas.

According to the United Nations (UN) the number of displaced people around the world has increased dramatically in one year. Given the crisis in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and others, the numbers jumped from 51.2 million in 2013 to 59.5 million by the end of 2014. Reportedly, the daily arrivals in Europe range around 8,000, and the problem may yet grow.

Numerous nations and groups focus on pressing needs, such as food, shelter, safety, and clothes. However, many of the refugees arrive with severe psychological damage, and may even be suicidal. According to Katy Robjant from the Helen Bamber Foundation, addressing these problems may be just as important as necessities such as food. Patients are often prone to crippling social anxieties, panic attacks, paranoia, difficulty sleeping, or even impulsively violent behavior.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have escaped war-torn areas, many have experienced multiple traumas, such as war, rape, and torture. This leads to numerous psychiatric illnesses, including complex variations of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, this migrant mental health crisis could reportedly not be fixed by existing therapies.

Foundations around Europe are currently honing their skills in regards to two types of therapies, specifically Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET), and Intercultural Psychotherapy. According to a psychotherapist, Aurelia Barbieri, who works with the Medicins Sans Frontieres (‘Doctors Without Borders’), these refugees have been “treated like beasts”. Many of them report being beaten, shot at, or even scalded with boiling water.

Around 40% of the refugees that have become her patients suffer from PTSD. Former studies have shown that they’re 10 times more likely to develop the condition. This results in terrifying flashbacks, anxiety, and some of them “think they’re going mad”.

Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) focuses on clearly talking about and documenting the horrors they have been through over six sessions. A year later, only 29% of patients who underwent NET still suffered from PTSD. This was marginally better than those who underwent supportive counseling sessions or psycho education, where 79% and 80% respectively still met the diagnosis of PTSD.

Others, such as Aida Alayarian from the Refugee Therapy Center in London prefer Intercultural Psychotherapy. This focuses better on their current fear and anxieties, rather than forcing them to focus on the past.

The same type of therapies that are often administered to car crash survivors or returning soldiers will not do for the migrant crisis. Instead, it has to be tackled in a different way.

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