Secondary traumatisation and post-traumatic growth: how are employees of charities who provide practical support to asylum seekers affected by their work?
thesisposted on 16.11.2011, 11:19 by Kara Louise Davey
Asylum claims in developing countries are increasing as a result of conflict and resource competition. As claims have increased and have included some non-genuine claims that have made headlines, concerns about the number of non-genuine claims have been used to justify increased stringency of legislation and policies relevant to the process of seeking asylum. This thesis explores both the psychological consequences of current asylum legislation on asylum seekers and the psychological consequences of supporting asylum seekers and refugees to meet the requirements of UK law. The literature review systemically reviewed studies investigating the psychological impact of awaiting an asylum decision and discussed the possible explanatory factors. For those awaiting their decision, the process was associated with increased psychological distress, compared to individuals no longer awaiting a decision. Distress also appeared to increase as a function of duration of wait. Uncertainty was commonly proposed as instrumental to asylum seekers' psychological distress. All studies highlighted that current policies and legislation adversely affect asylum seeker's psychological well-being and it is argued that change is required, reducing time taken for asylum claims. The empirical study explored positive and negative effects on charity-employed staff supporting asylum seekers and refugees. Secondary traumatic stress (STS) and post-traumatic growth (PTG) were assessed in staff working for charities that provide practical support to asylum seekers/ refugees across the UK. Measures of team support, organisational, social support, empathy, personal characteristics and ways of coping were also assessed. High levels of STS and low levels of PTG were found, potentially highlighting the need for strategies to mitigate distress for individuals providing practical support to asylum seekers and refugees. Collectively, this thesis suggests that the current asylum process is associated with both direct and indirect psychological consequences, which are prominent and aversive. Suggestions for future research and possible interventions are provided.