Pioneering research with victims of human trafficking highlights complex mental health needs

BRC News

Patients treated by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) have participated in research providing the first clinical evidence of the effects of human trafficking on mental health.

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 in The Lancet Psychiatry, is the first to examine the clinical and sociodemographic characteristics of trafficked people who have severe mental illness.

The researchers identified 133 people who had been trafficked, including 37 children, who were in contact with secondary mental health services at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM).  They then compared them to a randomly selected sample of non-trafficked patients.

Using an innovative text-mining tool, the Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS), the researchers extracted data on the socio-demographic and clinical characteristics, as well as history of abuse.

The King’s research team found that 51 per cent of trafficked patients had been trafficked for sexual exploitation. Among adults and children the most commonly recorded diagnoses were Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD, 39 per cent in adults and 27 per cent in children) and depression (34 per cent and 27 per cent respectively). In addition 15 per cent of the patients had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Dr Siân Oram, Lecturer in Women's Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, said: ‘Research on the mental health needs of trafficked people is extremely limited and only based on evidence from those in contact with shelter services. Our study shows that mental health services are caring for trafficked people with a range of diagnoses, including PTSD, depression and schizophrenia.

‘The complex needs of this vulnerable group - many of whom will be far from home, cut off from their families and disadvantaged in their access to education, social activities and physical healthcare - must be taken into consideration when assessing patient risk and planning treatment.’

Tags: Informatics - Publications -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 19 Oct 2015, 16:14 PM

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