Solicitor warns against pressure for psychiatric diagnosis of asylum cases

    Social workers and mental health professionals should refuse to
    provide expert evidence in asylum cases if they feel it is
    inappropriate, a solicitor urged last week, writes
    Sally Gillen
    .

    Tim Barnden, of south-London based firm Glazer Delmar, warned that
    some solicitors were seeking medical and other reports to
    strengthen their cases when it was sometimes unnecessary.

    Speaking at a conference on mental health and unaccompanied minors
    in London, Barnden said some solicitors were under a
    “misapprehension” that some of their clients
    experienced mental health problems.

    He said: “You may find solicitors coming to you seeking to
    medicalise their client. You should not be shy about turning round
    and saying that it is not relevant. Truth is always the best
    building block for a case.”

    Barnden added that some solicitors mistakenly believed that asylum
    seekers who had been tortured would automatically develop a mental
    health problem such as post traumatic stress disorder but research
    had shown the majority of people would not.

    “No psychiatrist or psychologist should be diagnosing an
    illness that is not there. It is clearly unethical and it does not
    help the client.”

    He warned that “rushing to medicalise” people could
    have devastating implications for them and there was a danger they
    could develop mental health problems as a result, and overuse of
    diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder could mean those
    genuinely suffering would not be taken seriously by the courts.

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