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Asylum Children Facing Mental Health Crisis

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This paper is based on the article "Asylum children facing mental health crisis" written by Sally Neighbour from "The Australian". According to Australian Health Ministers (Elder, Evans & Nizette, 2009), mental health is a state of emotional and social wellbeing in which the individual can cope with the normal stress of life and achieve his or her potential that includes being able to work productively and contribute to community life. Meanwhile the term 'mental health problems' can be described as a broad range of emotional or behavioural difficulties. The impact of mental health problems has been increasingly apparent. This article emphasizes on the mental health problems of the asylum seeking children in detention center. Moreover the author describes lacking basic freedom, being treated as a criminal by the guards and the detention center management, inadequate facilities with inappropriate and poorly resource, social isolation and breach in Australian international obligation to protect children and human rights.

The asylum seekers come to Australia without any valid visa and hence they are held in indefinite detention until they are granted visa or removed from Australia (Australian Human Right commission, 2009). An asylum seeker, who escapes to other countries, expects protection and support from those countries. They also suffer fear of deportation if refugee status was not granted. In addition, their past experience of torture and trauma associated with war and oppression, and of loss of family members and property had already harmed them emotionally, physically and morally (Sheikh, Maclntyre and Perera, 2008). Furthermore, Burnett & Gebremikeal (2005) found that current experience of immigration detention is a post migratory event and may remind them of past events. Children seeking asylum not only suffer mentally from conflict-related exposures before migration, during the process of seeking asylum, but also the organisational conditions in the host country might adversely affect their mental health.

Asylum seekers have a greater risk of developing mental health problems as they experience lengthy refugee determination (Kinzie, 2006). One of the study shows there is a strong association between the mental health of children seeking asylum in relation to organisational factors of the asylum system including length of stay and number of relocations (Nielsen, et, al, 2008). According to this study, in Denmark, children who had been asylum-seeking for more than one year had an increased risk of having mental difficulties (95%), four or more relocations in the asylum system were also associated with a higher risks. The literature reveals several environmental risk factors for mental illness in refugee children, such as number of transitions, time taken for immigration status to be determined, time spent in the host country, and cultural isolation (Nielsen, et, al, 2008).

Moreover the article shares the story of a young Afghan boy came to Australia unaccompanied and slashed himself with razor blade for two times during his detention in the camp. Such kind of self-injury behaviour is used as a coping mechanism to help the individual deal with emotional pain or to break feelings of numbness by arousing sensation (Lesniak, 2007). In this journal, the author also proposed as the feeling of frustration, anxiety, anger, and tension escalated, the self -injury act occurred to get relief and relaxation meaning that the inability to cope with intolerance emotions and expressing



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(2011, 09). Asylum Children Facing Mental Health Crisis. Retrieved 09, 2011, from

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