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Many refugees can't flee mental ailments

Serious psychiatric disorders now plague many of the more than 100,000 people who in the past decade have fled government persecution in the Asian nation of Bhutan. Refugees who had been tortured have fared particularly poorly, according to a new study of this displaced population.

The only previous mental-health investigation among non-Western refugees, published in 1993, found high levels of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Cambodians who fled to Thailand.

The Bhutanese refugees, who fled to camps in neighboring Nepal, did no better overall. In the May Archives of General Psychiatry, Mark Van Ommeren of the Center for Victims of Torture in Kathmandu, Nepal, and his colleagues report a survey of 418 tortured and 392 nontortured Bhutanese refugees, ages 21 to 85. Trained interviewers probed for psychiatric symptoms, and physicians conducted medical exams.

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