Assessing trauma and mental health in refugee children and youth: a systematic review of validated screening and measurement tools



Background: It is estimated that children below 18 years constitute 50% of the refugee population worldwide, which is the highest figure in a decade. Due to conflicts like the Syrian crises, children are continuously exposed to traumatic events. Trauma exposure can cause mental health problems that may in turn increase the risk of morbidity and mortality. Tools such as questionnaires and interview guides are being used extensively, despite the fact that only a few have been tested and their validity confirmed in refugee children and youth.Aims: Our aim was to provide a systematic review of the validated screening and measurement tools available for assessment of trauma and mental health among refugee children and youth.

Methods: We systematically searched the databases PubMed, PsycINFO and PILOTS. The search yielded 913 articles and 97 were retained for further investigation. In accordance with the PRISMA guidelines two authors performed the eligibility assessment. The full text of 23 articles was assessed and 9 met the eligibility criteria. Results: Only nine studies had validated trauma and mental health tools in refugee children and youth populations. A serious lack of validated tools for refugee children below the age of 6 was identified.

Conclusions: There is a lack of validated trauma and mental health tools, especially for refugees below the age of 6. Detection and treatment of mental health issues among refugee children and youth should be a priority both within the scientific community and in practice in order to reduce morbidity and mortality.

Tags: Refugees, Children, Adolescents, Youth, Trauma, Traumatic life events, Assessment, Screening, Literature review

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