Challenging Immigration Detention
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Challenging Immigration Detention

Academics, Activists and Policy-makers

Edited by Michael J. Flynn and Matthew B. Flynn

Immigration detention is an important global phenomenon increasingly practiced by states across the world in which human rights violations are commonplace. Challenging Immigration Detention introduces readers to various disciplines that have addressed immigration detention in recent years and how these experts have sought to challenge underlying causes and justifications for detention regimes. Contributors provide an overview of the key issues addressed in their disciplines, discuss key points of contention, and seek out linkages and interactions with experts from other fields.
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Chapter 11: Mental health care in an invalidating environment: the case of immigration detention in Australia

Stephen Brooker, Steve Albert, Peter Young and Zachary Steel


The global expansion of immigration detention systems creates an imperative for the mental health community to develop specialized models and practices of care. The harmful psychological effects of immigration detention and repeated findings that this practice results in breaches of human rights principles create a complex care setting. The authors employ lessons learned from their professional experiences in Australia, findings in specialized literature, and testimony from health workers and detainees to argue that immigration detention exhibits the qualities of an invalidating environment, wherein responses to a person’s emotional experiences are often inappropriate or inconsistent. In such settings the communication of emotional distress is generally ignored or responded to negatively with increasingly harsh responses that fail to address the cause of the distress. An invalidating environment promotes emotional and behavioral dysregulation, which is consistent with the experiences of many people held in immigration detention. Work by mental health professionals provides an important framework for understanding the corrosive nature of immigration detention and suggests a range of clinical approaches that may be adapted to assist in developing resilience to such settings.

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