Civilian Populations Affected by Conflict and Displacement

Zachary Steel, Catherine R. Bateman Steel and Derrick Silove

in Mental Health and Human Rights

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199213962
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754500 | DOI:
Civilian Populations Affected by Conflict and Displacement

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Zachary Steel, Catherine R. Bateman Steel, and Derrick Silove recapitulate the history of advances in understanding trauma (in which PTSD was central), concurrent with advances in human rights, especially regarding the issue of torture. The fusion of human rights and mental health concerns saw the advent of trauma-focused psychiatric epidemiology, with Western governments as willing funders of services for asylum-seekers. However, this consensus ended from the early 1990s, when governments aimed at stemming refugee flows by adopting new policies of deterrence: for example restricting the rights to work, welfare, housing, healthcare, and legal support for those gaining entry to host countries. These policies violate asylum-seekers’ civil-political rights (through mandatory detention, inappropriate decision outcomes based on systematic misreading of evidence etc) and exclude them from economic and socio-cultural rights, including those to which states are often signatories. Those working with asylum-seekers observe the mental health consequences. The authors also highlight debates about how well Western based trauma models account for and address cultural and indigenous mental health issues and rights, and how to enable these explanatory approaches to work together in research and practice.

Chapter.  8883 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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