Common Mental Disorders in Asylum Seekers and Refugees: Umbrella Review of Prevalence and Intervention Studies

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In recent years there has been a progressive rise in the number of asylum seekers and refugees displaced from their country of origin, with significant social, economic, humanitarian, and public health implications. In this population, up-to-date information on the rate and characteristics of mental health conditions, and on interventions that can be implemented once mental disorders have been identified, are needed. This umbrella review aims at systematically reviewing existing evidence on the prevalence of common mental disorders and on the efficacy of psychosocial and pharmacological interventions in adult and children asylum seekers and refugees resettled in low, middle and high income countries. In terms of psychosocial interventions, cognitive behavioral interventions, in particular narrative exposure therapy, were the most studied interventions with positive outcomes against inactive but not active comparators. Current epidemiological data needs to be expanded with more rigorous studies focusing not only on post-traumatic stress disorder but also on depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. In addition, new studies are urgently needed to assess the efficacy of psychosocial interventions when compared not only with no treatment but also each other. Despite current limitations, existing epidemiological and experimental data should be used to develop specific evidence-based guidelines, possibly by international independent organizations, such as the World Health Organization or the United Nations High Income Commission for Refugees. Guidelines should be applicable to different organizations of mental health care, including low and middle income countries as well as high income countries.

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Turrini, G., Purgato, M., Ballette, F., Nosè, M., Ostuzzi, G., & Barbui, C. (2017). Common mental disorders in asylum seekers and refugees: Umbrella review of prevalence and intervention studies.  International Journal of Mental Health Systems,  11(1), 51.

About This Study:

Outcome(s): Anxiety Reduction, Depression Reduction, PTSD Reduction
Intervention(s): Mental health and psychosocial support services
Intervention Duration: Varies by study
Relevant ORR Program: Ethnic Community Self-Help Program, Preferred Communities, Refugee Health Promotion, Refugee Support Services, Unaccompanied Refugee Minors
Study Type: Systematic review
Full Text Availability: Free
Direction of Evidence: Inconclusive or mixed impact, No impact, Positive impact
Strength of Evidence: Strong
Population(s): Refugees, Unaccompanied Minors
Gender(s) of Participants: All
Age(s) of Participants: Multiple Age Groups
Region(s) of Origin of Participants: Multiple Regions

Relevant Evidence Summaries:

The evidence was reviewed and included in the following summaries: