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Evidence of Relationship Between Mental Health and Human Trafficking

By Luis Gay

Research from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London (IoPPN) found clinical evidence of the relationship between mental health effects and human trafficking. In a patient population from South London, the most common effects included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

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The participants were in contact with secondary mental health services at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLam). A population of 133 trafficked people participated in the research study, 37 of which were children. They were compared to a control group of randomly selected, non-trafficked patients. Of the 51 percent of trafficked patients who had experienced sexual exploitation, 39 percent of adults were diagnosed with PTSD along with 27 percent in children. Depression followed a similar trend as 34 percent of adults and 27 percent of children were diagnosed. In addition, 15 percent of patients had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Medical records also showed that 43 percent of adults suffered childhood abuse and a staggering 76 percent of children suffered the same fate. In adulthood, 60 percent of adults experienced physical and sexual abuse before, during, and after trafficking.

Dr. Sian Oram, a lecturer in women’s mental health at loPPN, proclaimed that research in mental health needs of trafficked people are extremely limited. Most evidence is based on populations in contact with shelter services. She explained that this study shows how current mental health services are taking care of trafficked people with a wide range of diagnoses. With this in mind, there are many dynamics that must be taken into account including physical health care, social activities, and limited education. Healthcare advisors must take into consideration all these factors and be more aware of indicators of human trafficking to know how to respond to this serious act of violence.

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Luis Gay is a sophomore attending the University of San Francisco, pursuing a Biology degree and Biochemistry Minor. He is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.



Venosa, Ali. 17Oct2015. “ Human Trafficking Takes A Serious Toll On Mental Health: PTSD and Depression Often Diagnosed In Victims”. Medical Daily. [Accessed 23 Oct 2015]

Photo Credit:

This photo can be found on the American Association of University Women's Website


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