The mental health and help-seeking behaviour of resettled Afghan refugees in Australia

Int J Ment Health Syst. 2017 Aug 24;11:49. doi: 10.1186/s13033-017-0157-z. eCollection 2017.


Background: Psychological trauma, in particular, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, are highly prevalent among resettled refugees. However, little is known regarding the mental health status and associated help-seeking behaviour of resettled Afghan refugees in Australia.

Methods: A sample of 150 resettled Afghan refugees (74 males; mean age 32.8 years, SD = 12.2) living in Adelaide, South Australia were recruited. Self-reported measures of PTSD, depression, exposure to traumatic events, functional impairment, self-recognition of PTSD symptomatology and help-seeking behaviours were completed. Multivariate analysis of variables associated with help-seeking was conducted.

Results: Forty-four percent of participants met criteria for clinically significant PTSD symptoms and all but one participant reported being exposed to 1 or more traumatic and/or conflict related events, such as 'losing your property and wealth'. Moreover, 14.7% of participants had symptoms suggestive of clinically significant depression. General practitioners were the most common source of help in relation to mental health problems, with very few participants (4.6%) seeking help from specialist trauma and torture mental health services. Self-recognition of having a PTSD related mental health problem and functional impairment levels were both found to be independent predictors of help-seeking (p ≤ .05).

Conclusions: The findings provide further evidence for high rates of PTSD symptomatology and low uptake of mental care among resettled refugees. Poor self-recognition of the presence and/or adverse impact of PTSD symptoms may need to be targeted in mental health promotion programs designed to improve "mental health literacy" and thereby promote early and appropriate help-seeking where this is needed.

Keywords: Afghanistan; Help-seeking; Mental health; Refugees; Trauma.