Seeking asylum: Postmigratory stressors and asylum seeker distress.
thesisposted on 14.01.2009, 13:07 authored by Gareth Morgan
1.1 Background: Despite growing recognition of the negative impact of ever stringent asylum employed by western governments, psychological conceptualisations of distress in these populations remains dominated by traumamodels. 1.2 Literature Review: A systematic literature review was conducted to collate and critique findings from studies relating postmigratory stress to asylum seeker distress. The 44 reviewed studies suggested asylum seekers endure a range of postmigratory stressors relating to acculturative challenges, social isolation, material deprivation and restrictive asylum legislation. Difficulties associated with conducting research with these populations are acknowledged. It is concluded that restrictive asylum policies greatly inhibit asylum seekers’ abilities to negotiate challenges resulting from displacement. Smail’s (2005) social materialist perspective is suggested as a framework for findings. 1.3 Research Report: No known British empirical research has focused on exploring relationships between postmigratory-stress and asylum seeker mental health. Based on established methodologies (e.g. Silove et al.,1997) a cross-sectional study was undertaken to explore the relative relationship with distress of postmigratory-stressors and premigratory-trauma exposure. An opportunity sample of 98 asylum seekers completed measures of postmigratory-stress (the PLDC: Silove et al., 1997); premigratory-trauma exposure (HTQ-TE; Mollica et al.,1992) and distress (HTQ-PTSD: Mollica et al.,1992; HSCL-25: Hesbacher et al.,1980; Winokur et al.,1984). High levels of exposure to premigratory-traumatic events, postmigratory stress, and distress were reported. Regression analyses revealed ‘Feeling a burden to others’ and being denied asylum to be the strongest predictors of distress. It is concluded that a range of postmigratory stressors impact negatively on asylum seeker wellbeing. Those denied asylum experience more restrictions and poorer mental health. Limitations are acknowledged. 1.4 Implications: The literature review and research report conclude that present asylum determination processes are damaging to those seeking refuge. Psychotherapeutic interventions directed at the intra-psychic level may be of limited effectiveness given the more primary social and material needs of these clients. 1.5 Critical Appraisal: Reflections on the research process are presented alongside key learning points.