What works to improve mental health of refugee children and adults?

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Evidence Summary
June 2020

There is strong evidence that several interventions are effective in improving the mental health of child and adult refugees. Specifically, culturally adapted cognitive behavioral therapy (CA-CBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and narrative exposure therapy (NET) improve refugees’ anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or general symptoms of distress. Among refugee children, school-based programs, parenting classes, and high-support living environments for unaccompanied minors have been shown to improve children’s mental health. Research suggests that individual psychotherapy delivered in the client’s native language, the language of the resettlement country, or via an interpreter are all equally effective. Over twenty additional interventions for refugee adults and children have inconclusive effects or moderate support, thus warranting further research. Finally, digital technologies including telehealth, online interventions, and video games show promising results for increasing access to care as well as improving outcomes.

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