The Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group has published more than 200 reviews and, in May 2022, they added a new review of community‐based interventions for improving the mental health of refugee children and adolescents in high‐income countries. One of the authors, Noortje Uphoff who works with the Group at the University of York in the UK, tells us more in this podcast.
Mike: Hello, I'm Mike Clarke, podcast editor for the Cochrane Library. The Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group has published more than 200 reviews and, in May 2022, they added a new review of community‐based interventions for improving the mental health of refugee children and adolescents in high‐income countries. One of the authors, Noortje Uphoff who works with the Group at the University of York in the UK, tells us more in this podcast.
Noortje: Refugee children are a vulnerable group of people at risk of mental health problems. They have often experienced distressing and potentially traumatic events and may have had a long and dangerous journey before arriving in their destination country. When they arrive, they face challenges relating to settling in this new country and adapting to a new environment.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine caused millions of people to flee their homes and travel to other countries in Europe. This has highlighted the need for robust evidence to inform those commissioning and providing mental health support services for refugee children in high-income countries.
With this Cochrane review, we set out to assess the effectiveness and acceptability of mental health interventions for refugee children in the community. We focused on evidence from three randomised trials, but we also describe the evidence from another 35 studies that we identified within the review.
The three randomised trials were studies with teenagers in Germany and Australia. These tested music therapy and stabilization training delivered in schools, and the 'Teaching Recovery Techniques' intervention delivered at a refugee accommodation centre for minors. We did not find any evidence that these interventions could improve mental health symptoms when compared to allocation to a control group who were offered the intervention after the study. There was no difference between these intervention and wait list groups for symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, psychological distress or behavioural problems; but the certainty of the evidence was low to very low for all these outcomes.
In conclusion, there is currently no robust evidence on how to prevent or treat mental health problems among child refugees in high-income countries. The quality and relevance of research in this field needs to be improved, for example by ensuring that trials are large enough to detect meaningful differences and reported clearly. In particular, if mental health support is provided to child refugees in practice, it would be valuable for it to be evaluated in collaboration between providers, policymakers and researchers.
Mike: If you would like to read the current version of the review and watch for updates if this research gets done, you can find it online. Just go to Cochrane Library dot com and search 'mental health in refugee children'.