Trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental health care of asylum seekers

Rafael Youngmann, Rachel Bachner-Melman, Lilac Lev-Ari, Hadar Tzur, Ravit Hileli, Ido Lurie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Asylum seekers in Israel from East Africa frequently experienced traumatic events along their journey, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, where they were subjected to trafficking and torture. Exposure to trauma has implications for rights that are contingent on refugee status. This retrospective chart review aimed to characterize the types of traumas experienced by 219 asylum seekers (149 men) from Eritrea and Sudan who sought treatment at a specialized mental health clinic in Israel, and to compare the mental health of trauma victims (n = 168) with that of non-trauma victims (n = 53). About 76.7% of the asylum seekers had experienced at least one traumatic event, of whom 56.5% were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Most reported traumas were experienced en route in the Sinai, rather than in the country of origin or Israel. Few clinical differences were observed between trauma victims and non-trauma victims, or between trauma victims with and without a PTSD diagnosis. Our findings emphasize the importance of accessibility to mental and other health services for asylum seekers. Governmental policies and international conventions on the definition of human trafficking may need to be revised, as well as asylum seekers’ rights and access to health services related to visa status.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10661
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2 Oct 2021


  • Eritrea
  • Mental health care
  • PTSD
  • Sudan
  • Trauma
  • asylum seekers


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