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What is Resignation Syndrome?

13 Nov 2018

Psychiatrist Dr Beth O'Connor worked on Nauru providing much needed mental healthcare to the refugees and asylum seekers as well as the Nauruan population. She supported patients with resignation syndrome. 


There’s only so long that people can be resilient for.

There’s also a condition called either resignation syndrome or traumatic withdrawal syndrome which we’re seeing in the child population of refugees and asylum seekers.

These children start out looking like they’re depressed, not going to school, withdrawing from people, withdrawing from their family, withdrawing from their friends and becoming quite apathetic and then they progress to a state where they stop eating and drinking, they stop going to the toilet, they stop responding.

And you look at these children and you get into their field of vision and they just look, like, right through you, kind of almost like they’re zombies.

It’s really horrific to see these children, particularly because I’ve been there for quite a long time.

Children that used to come to the clinic and play and be quite chatty children, then deteriorating to the point where they’re in their bed.

There’s definitely a limit to what you can do as a mental health practitioner when it’s the context that’s the bigger problem.