Jump in mental health distress as refugee cuts bite

People rally to support refugees in Melbourne, 2017 (Refugee Action Collective)

A Catholic-run mental health service for refugees is seeing a spike in people presenting in distress after losing their income and rental support under new federal government cuts. Source: The Guardian.

Thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers will lose income and rental support over coming months under federal government cuts labelled “cruel” by charity groups, including the St Vincent de Paul Society.

They have all been told to get jobs, but many have poor English and serious health issues, and overseas qualifications are not recognised here.

Last year the government announced an end to Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) for several thousand asylum-seekers on bridging visas, to come into effect in 2018.

Separately, a group of about 190 refugees transferred here for medical care from Manus Island and Nauru have been suddenly moved onto a six-month bridging visa, stripped of income support and evicted from community detention housing.

Some of the Manus and Nauru transferees – collectively known as the Let Them Stay group – have long wanted the right to work, but others, brought to Australia for medical or mental health problems, have also been told to support themselves.

“Our sense is that everyone is vulnerable, but at the moment the more acute presentations are the Let Them Stay cohort,” says Tram Nguyen, medical director of specialist mental health services at Melbourne’s Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub.

“We’re seeing a lot more people just walking into our service in a heightened state of distress, at times thinking that suicide is a way out of the situation. So we’re crisis managing.”

Dr Nguyen says Cabrini’s staff – pro bono GPs and psychiatric specialists – are already assisting desperate clients and bracing for the thousands to come.

“If this is cut for people, what we’re anticipating are things like a lack of food security, families who could be homeless and destitute,” she says. “We are expecting an increase in depression, self-harm and suicidality, but also people who are just unable to afford their healthcare. We’ll try and pick up as much as possible but we think we’ll be overwhelmed by referrals.”


'I didn’t know how to survive': the refugees and asylum seekers hit by Coalition cuts (The Guardian)


Vinnies blasts 'cruel' cut in benefits to asylum seekers on medical treatment (The Guardian)

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