Mental health problems affect between 10 and 20% of young people worldwide with rates increasing in populations exposed to trauma (e.g. war and natural disasters), or living in chronic adversity (e.g. poverty). Refugee, asylum-seeking and internally displaced children are especially at risk. Not only are they more likely to be exposed to traumatic events initiating their displacement, but they may also experience adversities related to migration and resettlement including socioeconomic hardship, residential instability, discrimination and family dysfunction. Commonly reported mental health problems in youth include depression, anxiety, externalising problems and drug and alcohol abuse. However, in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), most youth will not receive adequate psychological care. When children are unable to receive treatment, these problems can increase morbidity and mortality, place a significant burden on health care and increase health care costs and in the long-term, decrease productivity.
The current refugee crisis, the worst since World War II, raises a critical question about how best to support child development and wellbeing in the wake of events and transitions that threaten to destabilise these structures either directly or through the erosion of ecological factors that surround them, such as the wellbeing of the family unit. Simple, brief, transdiagnostic psychosocial programs that can be delivered by non-specialist providers are one way to bridge the treatment gap to large groups of individuals. This symposium reviews the current literature on the psychological needs and developments in promoting better psychological health of refugee children and adolescents.