Human Trafficking Victims Have High Rates of PTSD, Depression

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Human trafficking takes a tremendous toll on its victims, and a new study indicates that there are significant mental health consequences, particularly with respect to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, England identified 133 trafficked people, including 37 children, who sought mental health treatment at National Health Service facilities and compared them to randomly selected non-trafficked patients who sought treatment there.

Of the trafficked people, 51% were trafficked for sexual exploitation. Thirty-nine percent of adults and 27% of children in the trafficked group were diagnosed with PTSD, the researchers reported in The Lancet Psychiatry. Depression was found in 34% of adults and 27% of children. And 15% of patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Medical records also indicated that three-quarters of the trafficked children were victims of child abuse, while 43% of adults were abused during their childhood. And 60% of trafficked adults were the victims of abuse, such as domestic violence and sexual assault, before, during, and after the trafficking.

“It is also very important that mental health professionals are aware of indicators of possible trafficking and how to respond appropriately to suspicions or disclosures of this extremely serious form of abuse,” Siân Oram, PhD, a lecturer in women's mental health at the IoPPN said in a statement.

Human Trafficking Victims Have High Rates of PTSD, Depression
Thirty-nine percent of adults and 27% of children in the trafficked group were diagnosed with PTSD.

A new study by researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London provides the first clinical evidence on the toll human trafficking has on mental health, including high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, amongst a patient population in South London.

Human trafficking is the recruitment and movement of people, by means such as deception and coercion, for the purposes of exploitation.

The UK Home Office has estimated that in 2013 there were between 10,000 and 13,000 trafficked people in the UK, including people trafficked for forced sex work, domestic servitude, and labour exploitation in a multitude of industries, including agriculture, construction, and food packaging and processing. This study, published today in The Lancet Psychiatry, is the first to examine clinical and sociodemographic characteristics of trafficked people who have severe mental illness.

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