According to estimates, half of all refugees arriving in Switzerland suffer from post-traumatic stress, reports news agency ATS.
But it takes on average eight years after their arrival to start treatment, according to Matthis Schick, director of a Zurich organization helping victims of war and torture.
Many trauma victims don’t want to talk about their experiences because they don’t want to relive them, or because they feel shame or guilt, particularly regarding rape and sexual assault.
But even when they do want to speak, Switzerland doesn’t have enough places available to treat them.
A 2013 study commissioned by the Swiss government found that the country lacked some 500 therapy places for refugees with psychological troubles.
Wait lists are therefore very long, with some having to wait up to a year to be seen.
The language barrier is also a major obstacle for people seeking treatment, according to Schick. Interpreters are often needed, but that’s a resource care-providers don’t always have and victims can’t always pay for.
His Zurich clinic is lucky to have its own interpreting service, but others don’t, and health insurance companies are not obliged to cover the costs.
Consequently, some patients resort to amateur interpreters or their own children, sometimes leading to errors.
“A translation mistake drove a woman to abort her child without wanting to,” said Schick.
In refusing to pay for professional interpreters the authorities are being short-sighted, he added, since not treating trauma victims can lead to bigger health problems down the line.