Review: How should child mental health services respond to the refugee crisis?

Author(s): Seyda ERUYAR ; Julia HUEMER ; Panos VOSTANIS

https://doi.org/10.1111/camh.12252

Abstract

Background

Child mental health services and related agencies are faced with an increasing challenge in responding to the influx of refugee children around the world. There is strong evidence on the prevalence and complexity of these children’s mental health problems and broader needs.

Aims

To review the research literature on risk and protective factors, and associated mental health interventions for refugee children.

Methods

Peer-reviewed studies were included for the period 2004–2017; if they included refugee, asylum-seeking or internally displaced children under 18 years; and adopted a quantitative design. Vulnerability and protective factors for refugee children were considered in this context, followed by the respective types of interventions at pre-, peri- and postmigration stage, and across high- and low-/middle-income countries. Eighty-two peer-reviewed studies fulfilled the selection criteria.

Results

The existing body of literature is largely based on identifying risk factors among children with mental health problems and predominantly designing trauma-focused interventions to reduce their symptomatic distress. Recent research and services have gradually shifted to a broader and dynamic resilience-building approach based on ecological theory, that is at child, family, school, community and societal level. There is increasing evidence for the implementation and effectiveness of multimodal interventions targeting all these levels, despite the methodological constraints in their evaluation.

Conclusions

In high-income countries, child mental health services need to collaborate with all agencies in contact with refugee children, establish joint care pathways, and integrate trauma-focused interventions with family and community approaches. In low- and middle-income countries, where specialist resources are sparse, resilience-building should aim at maximising and upskilling existing capacity. A six-dimensional psychosocial model that applies to other children who experience complex trauma is proposed.

Tags: Refugees, Asylum seekers, Internal displacement, Children, Adolescents, Youth, Families, Mental health services, Access to mental health care, Risk and protective factors, Resilience, Refugee crisis, Literature review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s