Improvements to Germany’s health care system may boost asylum seekers’ mental health

A significant number of asylum seekers in Germany with mental health adversities may not be receiving the best of care expected, with many not receiving any treatment at all for their conditions, new research claims.

Published in PLOS One, a research group with the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg surveyed 214 asylum seekers aged 15 or older, residing in the city of Halle, throughout 2015.

The results of their survey were then compared to data from the local social welfare office, unveiling health care information of all of the asylum seekers in that city throughout that year.

“Data on the health care system’s ability to adequately meet these high-risk populations’ mental health needs are scarce,” the co-authors explained in their findings. “This article investigates how well the German outpatient health care system is able to detect and adequately treat them.”

Based on the findings, the German-based research group uncovered that 54 percent of patients were diagnosed with having symptoms of depression. 41 percent had an anxiety condition, while 18 percent showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Of all the patients showing signs of psychological adversities, 45 percent, or almost half did not receive any treatment, with only 1 percent having been treated with psychotherapy, the findings claimed.

“This article presents two main findings: First, based on screening tests, a much larger proportion of asylum seekers experiences symptoms of various mental health disorders than are formally diagnosed. Second, among those diagnosed within the health care system, many receive no treatment at all and only very few patients receive psychotherapy,” the co-authors concluded in the journal piece.

“Considering the high prevalence of psychological complaints in asylum seekers, the introduction of screening measures seems advisable. Our data strongly supports these demands and highlights the need for systematic implementation of procedures to early identify asylum seekers with psychological complaints and facilitate their referral to adequate care.”

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