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What is Resignation Syndrome ?

Resignation syndrome is a psychological condition which is currently being seen in relation to Covid 19 immigration detention. It has even previously known to have affected kids and young children in detention centres and refugee camps, who went on to develop symptoms of general withdrawal, food refusal and in extreme cases, manifesting catatonic symptoms, or features of altered sensorium.

In Sweden, where it was apparently first noticed in 1991, is known by a complex name called uppgivenhetssyndrom.

It is well – known a fact that under extreme mental stress, a person can lose one’s mind and display symptoms of fearfulness, shock or bodily disturbances, which is a form of Dissociative Disorder.

Currently, in order to contain community transmission of Corona Virus, many countries are detaining people of all age groups in various places like quarantine zones, detention centres, observation areas and surveillance camps. Many children, particularly, after being separated from their parents for a long period of time, are showing signs of pervasive withdrawal, symptoms of exhaustion and abulia, which in simple term, means lack of will power, which are definitively, due to extreme stress and sense of isolation from their parents.

In many cases, children may become anxious and depressed and may withdraw totally from all kinds of social interaction.

Resignation as the word implies is somewhat similar to the state of being resigned to one’s fate, which is often encountered in normal individuals.

Resignation Syndrome appears to be a state of ‘abject surrender’ in response to an intolerable degree of stress and mental trauma.

This condition, if untreated, may be life – threatening owing to severe exhaustion, malnutrition and dehydration.

There are several factors which can lead to psychological trauma amongst child asylum seekers, refugees and detainees.

Such kids are exposed to a high level of stress and may go on to develop features of apprehension, depression and confusional states.

Currently in Nauru, and earlier in Europe and Australia, many kids had to stay back for more than five years, without any certainty of finding a place of safe relocation or family reunion.

In my personal clinical experience with patients who are confined to, say a psychiatric facility or a rehabilitation centre for a long period of time, exhibit signs and symptoms similar to Resignation Syndrome. That’s the reason, why as a matter of routine practice, I do not keep a patient under confined hospitalization for more than 2 – 3 months at a stretch, and even if I do in certain cases, I allow the patient to go on parole for a few days every week and spend time outside the hospital setting, in the company of his or her parents. And it works dramatically.

We must understand and accept the fact that any person, more so, in the case of kids, if they are confined in a place of restricted movement amidst uncertainty as to when he or she will be released or find a suitable place for a normal life, is certain to slide into a state of mental derangement.

Children and individuals with Resignation Syndrome should get adequate supportive treatment, along with counselling, apart from expediting the process of resettlement as quick as possible.

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