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Editorial

  • Frank C. Verhulst

Abstract

This issue contains a plethora of interesting articles pertaining to socially highly relevant matters. Children in other cultures who are raised under very underprivileged circumstances, such as refugee children, confront mental health workers with issues that transcend cultural bounderies, especially since mass movements of refugees and immigrants are putting great numbers of children into unfamiliar environments. In addition, these children often face severe losses both materially and personally. In order to help these children, mental health workers require tools for identifying their needs in order to develop special interventions. Because existing assessment instruments are often not readily applicable to children and parents in cultures that differ vastly from those in the West, researchers are confronted with problems of adapting or developing new assessment procedures. Paardekooper et al., for example, were confronted with the fact that in their study on the psychological impact of war and the refugee situation on Sudanese children who lived in refugee camps in Uganda, many non-written languages were being spoken. They used trained interviewers and a cartoon-based interview to obtain information on the children's mental health. The authors compared mental health problems of Sudanese refugee children with those of Ugandan children. The refugee children reported more daily stresses, less social support, and more emotional/behavioural problems than children from the comparison group. Also, the refugee children had been confronted with many more traumatic events such as witnessing the murder of a family member. The severity of the problems and the lack of support make the introduction of supportive programmes of paramount importance. This is what the authors intend to do in the future. The findings of this study also underscore our responsibilities with regard to the mental health of the many refugee children who enter Western countries every day.

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