JOURNAL ARTICLE

Psychiatric care in restricted conditions for work migrants, refugees and asylum seekers: experience of the Open Clinic for Work Migrants and Refugees, Israel 2006

Ido Lurie
Israel Journal of Psychiatry and related Sciences 2009, 46 (3): 172-81
20039517
In the last few decades, the State of Israel has become a target for work migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking, as part of the trend of world immigration. Immigration is a process of loss and change with significant socio-psychological stress, with possible effects on the immigrants' mental health. The Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR) Association operates a psychiatric clinic as part of the Open Clinic for Work Migrants and Refugees. This article will present major clinical issues regarding psychiatry and immigration in Israel according to the data collected at the clinic. Trauma and stress-related psychopathology was found to have a high prevalence in immigrant patients treated at the clinic; prevalence of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in immigrants was high (23%) and even higher in refugees (33%). Female immigrants are at higher risk for psychiatric hospitalization. The relative rate of African patients at the clinic is significantly higher than patients from other continents. A significant association was found between psychiatric hospitalization and suicide attempts. Immigrant patients present a combination of psychiatric, socio-economic and general medical conditions, which demands a holistic view of the patient. The evaluation of an immigrant patient must take into account the stress related to immigration, gender, culture of origin and the risk for suicide and hospitalization. Treatment recommendations include awareness of cultural diversities, acquiring information regarding the pre-immigration history, preferably using cultural consultants with background in the immigrants' culture and community. Decision-making about medication and diagnostic evaluation should be as inexpensive as possible. Basic human needs (food, shelter) and family support should be included in the decisions about treatment.

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