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World Psychology: Psychology by Country · Psychology of Displaced Persons


Apart from physical wounds or starvation, a large percentage of refugees develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. These long-term mental problems can severely impede the functionality of the person in everyday situations; it makes matters even worse for displaced persons who are confronted with a new environment and challenging situations. They are also at high risk for suicide.[1]

Among other symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder involves anxiety, over-alertness, sleeplessness, chronic fatigue syndrome, motor difficulties, failing short term memory, amnesia, nightmares and sleep-paralysis. Flashbacks are characteristic to the disorder: The patient experiences the traumatic event, or pieces of it, again and again. Depression is also characteristic for PTSD-patients and may also occur without accompanying PTSD.

PTSD was diagnosed in 34.1% of Palestinian children, most of whom were refugees, males, and working. The participants were 1,000 children aged 12 to 16 years from governmental, private, and United Nations Relief Work Agency UNRWA schools in East Jerusalem and various governorates in the West Bank.[2]

Another study showed that 28.3% of Bosnian refugee women had symptoms of PTSD three or four years after their arrival in Sweden. These women also had significantly higher risks of symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress than Swedish-born women. For depression the odds ratio was 9.50 among Bosnian women.[3]

A study by the Department of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine demonstrated that twenty percent of Sudanese refugee minors living in the United States had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. They were also more likely to have worse scores on all the Child Health Questionnaire subscales.[4]

Many more studies illustrate the problem. One meta-study was conducted by the psychiatry department of Oxford University at Warneford Hospital in the United Kingdom. Twenty surveys were analyzed, providing results for 6,743 adult refugees from seven countries. In the larger studies, 9% were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and 5% with major depression, with evidence of much psychiatric co-morbidity. Five surveys of 260 refugee children from three countries yielded a prevalence of 11% for post-traumatic stress disorder. According to this study, refugees resettled in Western countries could be about ten times more likely to have PTSD than age-matched general populations in those countries. Worldwide, tens of thousands of refugees and former refugees resettled in Western countries probably have post-traumatic stress disorder.[5]



See alsoEdit

References & BibliographyEdit

  1. includeonly>"Detainee children 'in suicide pact'", CNN, 2002-01-28. Retrieved on 2010-05-22.
  2. Khamis, V. Post-traumatic stress disorder among school age Palestinian children. Child Abuse Negl. 2005 Jan;29(1):81–95.
  3. Sundquist K, Johansson LM, DeMarinis V, Johansson SE, Sundquist J. Posttraumatic stress disorder and psychiatric co-morbidity: symptoms in a random sample of female Bosnian refugees. Eur Psychiatry. 2005 Mar;20(2):158–64.
  4. Geltman PL, Grant-Knight W, Mehta SD, Lloyd-Travaglini C, Lustig S, Landgraf JM, Wise PH. The "lost boys of Sudan": functional and behavioral health of unaccompanied refugee minors re-settled in the United States. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005 Jun;159(6):585–91.
  5. Fazel M, Wheeler J, Danesh J. Prevalence of serious mental disorder in 7000 refugees resettled in western countries: a systematic review. Lancet. 2005 Apr 9–15;365(9467):1309–14.

Key textsEdit

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Additional materialEdit

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External linksEdit

Forum for psychologists working with refugees asylum seekers Mentalhealth for refugee professionals Refugee council Medical foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture International committee of the Red Cross International federation of Red cross and Red Crescent Societies


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