Psychiatrists call for increased support for Afghani asylum seekers

25 August 2021

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has expressed concerns for the humanitarian and mental health crisis emerging after the resurgence of Taliban activity in Afghanistan.

President of the RANZCP, Associate Professor Lakra, said that there are significant psychiatric and wellbeing implications for those awaiting visa outcomes, particularly Afghan people in the current circumstances.

‘Many Afghan asylum seekers are survivors of torture and trauma and as such experience grief, loss and trauma-related symptoms’, added Associate Professor Lakra.

‘Being unable to protect and communicate with family in Afghanistan will likely result in significant deterioration of psychiatric symptoms associated with these mental health conditions.

Chair of the RANZCP Asylum Seeker and Refugee Mental Health Network, Dr Kym Jenkins, explained that the current situation in Afghanistan was exacerbating the existing vulnerability of Afghani people awaiting visa outcomes.

‘Asylum seekers are already a vulnerable population experiencing grief’, said Dr Jenkins.

‘These individuals are experiencing heightened distress regarding the safety of family members in Afghanistan, particularly wives and children, who without a male presence in the household, face intensifying risk under the resurgence of Taliban activity.

‘Current distress levels are clinically paralysing for these individuals, and for many their own future is not survivable if their family suffer and are killed.

‘We are urging the Government to consider the mental health implications for this already vulnerable group and take immediate action to support them during this critical time.’

The RANZCP urgently requests a review of the visa status, and the necessity for this group to now be considered for a Humanitarian visa which would allow them to settle in Australia and bring family. 

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

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