The first cases of resignation syndrome, an extreme mental state, were noticed by experts in the 1990s among migrant and refugee children in Sweden. But what exactly is the so-called resignation syndrome and which are the political aspects of it?

Resignation Syndrome

  According to Kostantina Kranou, Supervisor Social Worker and Psychotherapist for Refugee Support Aegean the stressors experienced by refugee children can be divided into three phases. The first phase takes place in their home country where they may have experienced war, loss of relatives, they may have been victims of violence or torture and finally, they were forced to flee. A significant number of displaced children may have never experienced a period of stability. In the second phase, we define the period of the journey. This period can last several months even years and it is full of deadly risks. Again they may face violence, detention, and separation of family or guardian. Normally we should refer to the third period as the period of integration to a new society and the beginning of a new life exempt from dangers but unfortunately, the arrival in Europe is the beginning of another painful period, undoubtedly the most traumatic of all. When the children are in the countries of origin or during the journey they face a lot of difficulties but they have hope that they will reach a safe place where they will have the opportunity to make a new beginning. Soon after their arrival to Europe, they realize that they fled violence and conflict only to be found at a squalid camp, with chaotic and inhumane conditions. At this stage, it seems that children lose their hope, which until then was the driving force. They expect to find safety and they do not.

  Children gradually start to perceive the world as a bad place to withdraw from. Resignation syndrome is a state of extreme withdrawal which occurs in the context of severe psychological trauma and it can last for months or even years. Children that were perfectly well before simply close their eyes and stop eating or drinking. Their muscles are wasting away and they are dressed in nappies, are tube-fed, and receive intravenous rehydration. This consists of a response to an intolerable reality. Minors with resignation syndrome become floppy, without normal reflexes, and unresponsive even to pain. There are risks of kidney failure and death from immobility, malnutrition, and dehydration. The victims require total high-level care provided by specialist pediatric teams, the capacity of nutritional and rehydration support, and kidney and other bodily functions monitoring. In some cases, they end up in a comatose state. The prognosis for the resignation syndrome is uncertain, however, it has been reported that the recovery comes when the children and their families reach a place of stability and obtain secure residency status. The role of mental health specialists is very important as they can create feelings of safety and security which contribute to the recovery. Mental health support and counseling are also important for the parents to be able to manage the situation.

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