Washington D.C.: A team of has provided the first clinical evidence on the toll human trafficking has on mental health, including high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, amongst a patient population in South London.
Human trafficking is the recruitment and movement of people, by means such as deception and coercion, for the purposes of exploitation. The UK Home Office has estimated that in 2013 there were between 10,000 and 13,000 trafficked people in the UK, including people trafficked for forced sex work, domestic servitude, and labour exploitation in a multitude of industries, including agriculture, construction, and food packaging and processing.
The researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London found that 51 per cent of trafficked patients had been trafficked for sexual exploitation. Among adults and children the most commonly recorded diagnoses were PTSD (39 per cent in adults and 27 per cent in children) and depression (34 per cent and 27 per cent respectively). In addition 15 per cent of the patients had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
These medical records documented high rates of prior childhood abuse among trafficked adults (43 per cent) and children (76 per cent). Among trafficked adults, medical records also documented high levels of adulthood abuse before, during, and after trafficking (60 per cent), including domestic violence and sexual assault after trafficking.
Dr Sian Oram said that research on the mental health needs of trafficked people is extremely limited and only based on evidence from those in contact with shelter services. Their study shows that mental health services are caring for trafficked people with a range of diagnoses, including PTSD, depression and schizophrenia.
Oram added: 'Although interventions such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) exist for PTSD and depression, further research is required to assess their effectiveness in promoting the recovery of trafficked people.
The study is published in The Lancet Psychiatry.