Urgent action required to address mental health needs of asylum seekers in direct provision – Senator Rónán Mullen

Calls for early assessment and referral, where necessary, and for consultant psychiatrists to be assigned to direct provision centres.


A motion calling on the government to ensure access to early assessment and referral to mental health services for asylum seekers in the direct provision system was debated in Seanad Éireann this evening, Wednesday, 29th May.

The motion arises on foot of expert medical research and calls from lobby groups in recent years which has found that long stays in the direct provision system have a detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing of asylum applicants. It has also found that there has been a failure to address the particular needs of those dealing with the trauma of having fled war zones and persecution.

The motion tabled by Senator Mullen and supported by Senators Joan Freeman, Marie Louise O’Donnell, Victor Boyhan, Pádraig Ó Céidigh, David Norris and Frances Black notes the current shortfalls in mental health services across the country and calls on the Government to address this issue.

Introducing the motion, Senator Mullen said:

“The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland has found that refugees and asylum seekers have up to ten times the level of post traumatic disorder compared to the indigenous population. The Royal College of Physicians has found that asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution have unique and complex mental health needs which require specific intervention.

“We need to take steps to deal with these problems as a matter of urgency. Consultant psychiatrists should be identified in each area in which a direct provision reception centre is located, which would allow, where required, early and adequate assessment of asylum seekers for mental health issues. The Government needs to work with the College of Psychiatrists to bring forward additional candidates for consultant psychiatrists posts, to partially address the serious staff shortage in the system.

“In addition, specialised services such as psychotherapy for survivors of torture and other violence, should be accessible at an early stage for those who need them. We also need to ensure that interpreters are available to assist medical and mental health professionals where needed.

“I have also called for additional measures to be taken to improve school-based programmes to promote positive mental health, in line with recommendations made by a number of experts who stress the importance of early intervention with our young people.

“It is not acceptable in Ireland in 2019, where the health spend is bigger than ever before, that our mental health services continue to lag behind those in the rest of Europe. It is an affront to the human dignity of our young people and of those in direct provision who cannot access the services they need to ensure their mental health and well-being”, concluded Senator Mullen.


For more information contact Rónán Mullen on 087 244 6911.

Note to editor – Full text of motion can be found here