MENTAL HEALTH OF DISPLACED REFUGEE CHILDREN

The Invisible Scars from war & displacement

TRAUMA EXPERIENCED WITHIN SYRIA'S BORDERS​

In the midst of the conflict, young children are exposed to unimaginable scenes of brutality and human rights violations.

Many Syrian refugee children [1]:

  • Are the victims or witnesses of first-hand violence and physical abuse
  • Have seen the destruction of their homes and communities
  • Experienced increased levels of poverty and loss of livelihood within their families
  • Lacked access to basic food and water necessities
  • Have reduced educational opportunities; more than half of displaced children are unable to continue their education [2]
Syrian children attend class in a home for a refugee family turned into a makeshift school, in Lebanon's Kab Elias camp [3].
Syrian refugees stand as they gather during the visit of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to al-Dalhamiyeh camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon [4].
“If something like that happens to you when you’re young, you’ll be impacted your whole life.”

Traumatic events trigger Mental Health Issues

These traumatic experiences can incite devastating psychological distress manifested in depression, anxiety, behavioral and emotional problems [6], and PTSD [7].

A study [8] conducted in Islahiye Camp in Turkey found that out of the surveyed Syrian refugee children:

  • 45 percent showed symptoms of PTSD—10 times the prevalence among children worldwide [8]. 
  • 44 percent reported symptoms of depression [8].

Without mental health interventions in host countries, the trauma refugee children face will likely affect their development into adulthood.

A 2013 study prompted Syrian refugee children to "draw a person," resulting in this sketch [5].

Resettlement conditions can exacerbate mental health Challenges

When thrust into a new environment, refugee children and families face difficulties with assimilating, especially in Western countries, where refugees tend to have different familial, cultural, religious, and social values than those of their host community—leading to social isolation and discrimination [9].

For refugee children, bullying in schools is common as a result of these cultural differences and language barriers, sometimes resulting in devastating consequences.

WHAT INTERVENTIONS CAN ADDRESS MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES IN REFUGEE CHILDREN?

References:

  1. Hassan, G., Ventevogel, P., Jefee-Bahloul, H., Barkil-Oteo, A., & Kirmayer, L. J. (2016). Mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of Syrians affected by armed conflict. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences, 25(2), 129-141.
  2. UNHCR. (2013). Syria Crisis: Education Interrupted. Retrieved from http://www.refworld.org/docid/52aebbc04.html.
  3. Hussein, B. (2016). Syrian children attend class in a home for a refugee family turned into a makeshift school, in Lebanon’s Kab Elias camp. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2016/09/syrian-refugees-displaced-war-160920073121763.html.
  4. Taher, A. (2016, March 25). Syrian refugees stand as they gather during the visit of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to al-Dalhamiyeh camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Retrieved from http://time.com/4290250/syria-lebanon-forced-labor-children/.
  5. Ozer, S., Sirin, S., & Oppedal, B. (2013). Bahcesehir study of Syrian refugee children in Turkey. Istanbul: Bahçesehir University.
  6. Cartwright, K., El-Khani, A., Subryan, A., & Calam, R. (2015). Establishing the feasibility of assessing the mental health of children displaced by the Syrian conflict. Global Mental Health, 2.
  7. (2011). Youth and Mental Health. Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center. Retrieved from https://refugeehealthta.org/physical-mental-health/mental-health/youth-and-mental-health/.
  8. Sirin, S. R., & Rogers-Sirin, L. (2015). The educational and mental health needs of Syrian refugee children. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.
  9. Fazel, M., & Betancourt, T. S. (2018). Preventive mental health interventions for refugee children and adolescents in high-income settings. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, 2(2), 121-132.

Biology of Global Health Final Project