Upp­given­hetssyn­drom

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - CONTENTS -

This week, we fea­ture a small sam­ple of the im­ages from the World Press Photo Ex­hi­bi­tion. This image (right) is not one of the most mind-blow­ing on first sight, but its caption is haunt­ing.

Taken in Swe­den, the photo is of sis­ters Djeneta (right) and Ibadeta. They’re Roma refugees, from Kosovo. They have some­thing known as res­ig­na­tion syn­drome – in Swe­den they call it upp­given­hetssyn­drom. They don’t move, speak, eat, drink or re­spond to any phys­i­cal stim­u­lus at all. Djeneta has been this way for two-and-a-half years, and Ibadeta for more than six months.

And here’s the re­ally strange thing. The con­di­tion is be­lieved to ex­ist only among refugees in Swe­den. The causes are un­clear, but most doc­tors agree that trauma, stress and de­pres­sion are big fac­tors. No one knows why this is only hap­pen­ing in Swe­den, and so far only to refugees aged 7 to 19, mainly from ex-Soviet coun­tries or the for­mer Yu­goslavia. “For many, the syn­drome is trig­gered by hav­ing a res­i­dence ap­pli­ca­tion re­jected,” reads the caption. “Grant­ing res­i­dence to fam­i­lies of suf­fer­ers is of­ten cited as a cure.”

With enor­mous strength, I’m re­frain­ing from say­ing some­thing te­dious and ar­guably in­ac­cu­rate about how lucky we are to live in New Zealand. Al­though, as you look through some of the pho­tos (start­ing on page 8), feel free to think it your­self.

Ti­tle: Res­ig­na­tion Syn­drome © Mag­nus Wen­n­man

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