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“Crying makes your story more believable”: The use of PTSD by asylum seekers and health professionals within the asylum process
Abstract Asylum seekers entering into Europe are often obliged to tell their story to multiple
actors (often with a focus on the ‘trauma narrative’) in order to be legally recognized
as refugees. Lacking alternative evidence, many attempt to prove their
‘well-founded fear’ and the violence to which they have been exposed through a
diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the literature highlights
the risk of PTSD becoming a ‘pre-requisite’ for validating the experiences of
asylum seekers, reifying and reducing these experiences to a diagnosis in order to
render accounts believable. To categorize an asylum seeker with PTSD is therefore
‘an act of meaning making,’ entrenched in the habits and discursive practices of
medical and legal institutions with very concrete social, material and legal consequences.
To explore this, we present the results of a yearlong research projects among
asylum seekers diagnosed with PTSD as well as their treating health professionals
(including doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists) in a center for victims of torture
in Athens, Greece. We analyze the use of the category of PTSD by various
actors, notably as factor influencing the decision-making process and the exercise
of discretion during the refugee status determination process. The analysis reveals
the multiple contradictions in how the various actors involved (including lawyers,
bureaucrats, health professionals and the asylum seekers themselves) use this diagnostic
construct. We highlight the substantial differences in understanding the
diagnosis reflecting existing power imbalances, the way in which narratives of
trauma may be purposefully ‘rehearsed’ for the tribunal, and the tensions surrounding
the sharing of the trauma narrative within this activity-system.
   
Keywords
   
Citation Womersley, G. (2018). “Crying makes your story more believable”: The use of PTSD by asylum seekers and health professionals within the asylum process. Presented at 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses, Tilburg, the Netherlands.
   
Type Presentation (English)
Date 26-10-2018
Event 6th International Conference on Multicultural Discourses (Tilburg, the Netherlands)
Related project Socio-cultural manifestations of PTSD among asylum seeker...