‘I Can’t Concentrate’: A Feasibility Study with Young Refugees in Sweden on Developing Science-Driven Interventions for Intrusive Memories Related to Trauma

Author(s): Emily A HOLMES ; Ata GHADERI ; Ellinor ERIKSSON ; Klara Olofsdotter LAURI ; Olivia M. KUKACKA ; Maya MAMISH ; Ella L. JAMES ; Renée M. VISSER



Background: The number of refugees is the highest ever worldwide. Many have experienced trauma in home countries or on their escape which has mental health sequelae. Intrusive memories comprise distressing scenes of trauma which spring to mind unbidden. Development of novel scalable psychological interventions is needed urgently.

Aims: We propose that brief cognitive science-driven interventions should be developed which pinpoint a focal symptom alongside a means to monitor it using behavioural techniques. The aim of the current study was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the methodology required to develop such an intervention.

Method: In this study we recruited 22 refugees (16–25 years), predominantly from Syria and residing in Sweden. Participants were asked to monitor the frequency of intrusive memories of trauma using a daily diary; rate intrusions and concentration; and complete a 1-session behavioural intervention involving Tetris game-play via smartphone.

Results: Frequency of intrusive memories was high, and associated with high levels of distress and impaired concentration. Levels of engagement with study procedures were highly promising.

Conclusions: The current work opens the way for developing novel cognitive behavioural approaches for traumatized refugees that are mechanistically derived, freely available and internationally scalable.

Tags: Sweden, Youth, Adolescents, Young adults, Refugees, Traumatic life events, Intrusive memories, PTSD, Depression

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