An Yle survey shows that there have been suicide attempts at nearly half of Finland's reception centres.
Asylum seekers who have exhibited symptoms of psychological distress have received adequate care on the whole, the survey shows, but some 15 percent of respondents say that the care has been insufficient or even very bad.
Fifty-four people working as directors in reception centres responded to the survey in early June. Some of them are in charge of more than one centre. There were a total of 124 reception centres in Finland at the beginning of June.
Half of the respondents, 27 people, said that there have been no suicide attempts in the centre or centres they run. One or two attempts were reported by 22 directors, one reported several and four declined to answer definitively.
Denial can be last straw
Asylum seekers stay at reception centres while awaiting asylum interviews, after which they wait again to hear whether they will be allowed to stay in Finland. These steps take months on end. Survey respondents describe the psychological conditions of the migrants as challenging.
"Primarily the people in distress have had to deal with violence in their countries of origin or on the way to Finland. Despair may set in once frustration in Finland and fears for the future are added to the immigrant's experiences," says one anonymous respondent. "Our professional healthcare team has probably prevented a number of suicides."
Directors have critical things to say about the process of migrants being given psychological aid.
"It's hard to get help with psychological problems. Doctors seem unwilling to order in translators and the patients are not always listened to. This may lead to conclusions being drawn on the face of things, and the need for care is belittled. One suicide attempt was spurred by a weeks-long wait for care, and we only prevented it by physically stepping in and calling an ambulance," one testimonial describes.
Despite this, a large number of respondents say that those in need are taken care of.
"The staff knows the inhabitants well and the workers are easy to approach, which means it's also easy to spot changes in mood or behaviour quickly and give aid," another respondent said.