Psychiatrists urged to raise awareness about human trafficking



– Psychiatrists see and interact with people who are being sex and labor trafficked “all the time” – and can learn more about how to identify these individuals, Rachel Robitz, MD, said at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

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In an exclusive video, Mollie Gordon, MD, interviewed Dr. Robitz about the intersection between trafficking and mental health. “What scares me the most is some of the statistics about self-harm,” said Dr. Robitz. “One study of sex-trafficked adults found that about 40% of them had a history of a suicide attempt. A study of sex-trafficked minors found that about 30% of them had a history of moderate to severe self-harm behavior.”

One way to ensure that trafficked individuals are not missed in clinical settings is to develop protocols like those described in the Health, Education, Advocacy, Linkage (HEAL) trafficking toolkit, Dr. Robitz said. Other resources include those provided by the Department of Health & Human Services’s Office on Trafficking in Persons.

Dr. Robitz, who is double boarded in psychiatry and family medicine, is with the University of California, Davis. She previously worked for a program for homeless youth and for many programs aimed at helping adult and youth survivors of human trafficking. Dr. Robitz has no disclosures. Dr. Gordon is associate professor of psychiatry in the Menninger department of behavioral health at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. She is a founding member of the Houston Area Human Trafficking Health Care Consortium. Dr. Gordon has no disclosures.

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