23/11/2020 Doras are calling for immediate action to ensure that vulnerable people living in direct provision have access to mental health supports and services in a new report, released on 23rd November 2020. The report highlights five key areas that have a negative impact on the mental health of international protection applicants. These are unsuitable accommodation, delays in case processing, substance misuse and addiction, lack of support services, and the impact of Covid-19.
A key recommendation of the report is that mental health and addiction services be resourced to appropriately respond to the needs of people living in Direct Provision, including the provision of targeted outreach services.
“We see too many cases of people who feel they have been abandoned, with nowhere to turn for mental health support” said John Lannon, Doras CEO. “Every day spent in overcrowded accommodation, often in isolated locations and with no privacy, can lead to further traumatisation and distress for people struggling to cope with pre-migration trauma.”
The report highlights the urgent need to ensure that staff and management of Direct Provision centres are aware of how to appropriately respond to the urgent mental health needs of residents, including people at high risk of suicide and people in need of crisis intervention support.
John Lannon said “Ending direct provision in line with the Day Advisory Group recommendations is essential to ensure the wellbeing of international protection applicants in the medium to long term. But the government mustn’t lose sight of the urgent need to improve mental health supports and services for people in direct provision today. Every day we see the negative mental health impact of COVID-19 restrictions, isolation, lack of access to services, and uncertainty over their future for people in Direct Provision. The Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and IPAS must make the necessary resources available to address this immediately.”
The report notes that the ongoing failure to implement vulnerability assessments means that people with pre-existing mental health conditions are not being identified or given the accommodation and supports that they need. It calls for single rooms to be made available to people who self-identify or are identified by health professionals and support services as particularly vulnerable and at-risk.
“While mainstream mental health services are in principle available to people in direct provision, we have repeatedly seen cases where residents in centres are unaware of, or unable to access, such services” said John Lannon. “The problems are compounded by the lack of multilingual mental health services in Ireland.”
The report also stresses the importance of ensuring that recommendations from GPs, psychiatric services and other qualified health professionals be followed in all individual cases in order to alleviate distress and reduce risks to wellbeing and life.
One particularly worrying aspect of the report is the mental health impact of Direct Provision on children. It notes that suicide ideation in children living in Direct Provision has been reported, and that numerous bodies including the Ombudsman for Children’s Office have raised serious concerns about its impact on children.