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Open Access Research article

Women in post-trafficking services in moldova: diagnostic interviews over two time periods to assess returning women's mental health

Nicolae V Ostrovschi14, Martin J Prince2, Cathy Zimmerman5, Mihai A Hotineanu14, Lilia T Gorceag3, Viorel I Gorceag3, Clare Flach2 and Melanie A Abas2*

Author Affiliations

1 N.Testemitanu Medical and Pharmaceutical University, Chisinau, Moldova

2 Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK

3 International Organization for Migration, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

4 League of Mental Health, Moldova

5 London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:232  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-232

Published: 14 April 2011

Abstract

Background

Trafficking in women is a widespread human rights violation commonly associated with poor mental health. Yet, to date, no studies have used psychiatric diagnostic assessment to identify common forms of mental distress among survivors returning to their home country.

Methods

A longitudinal study was conducted of women aged 18 and over who returned to Moldova between December 2007 and December 2008 registered by the International Organisation for Migration as a survivor of human trafficking. Psychiatric diagnoses in women at a mean of 6 months after return (range 2-12 months) were made by a trained Moldavian psychiatrist using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, and compared with diagnoses recorded in the same women within 5 days of return. We described the socio-demographic characteristics of the women in the sample including both pre and post-trafficking information. We then described the distribution of mental health diagnoses recorded during the crisis intervention phase (1-5 days after return) and the re-integration phase (2-12 months after return). We compared diagnoses at the patient level between the two time points by tabulating the diagnoses and carrying out a kappa test of agreement and the Stuart-Maxwell test for marginal homogeneity (an extension of the McNemar test to kxk table).

Results

120/176 (68%) eligible women participated. At 2-12 months after their return, 54% met criteria for at least one psychiatric diagnoses comprising post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) alone (16%); co-morbid PTSD (20%); other anxiety or mood disorder (18%). 85% of women who had been diagnosed in the crisis phase with co-morbid PTSD or with another anxiety or mood disorder sustained a diagnosis of any psychiatric disorder when followed up during rehabilitation.

Conclusions

Trafficked women returning to their country of origin are likely to suffer serious psychological distress that may endure well beyond the time they return. Women found to have co-morbid PTSD or other forms of anxiety and depression immediately post-return should be offered evidenced-based mental health treatment for at least the standard 12-month period of rehabilitation.