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Syrian refugees may have increased mental health needs due to the frequent exposure to potentially traumatic events and violence experienced during the flight from their home country, breakdown of supportive social networks and daily life stressors related to refugee life. The aim of this study is to report evidence on mental health needs and access to mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) among Syrians refugees living in Sultanbeyli-Istanbul, Turkey.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted among Syrian refugees aged 18 years or over in Sultanbeyli between February and May 2018. We used random sampling to select respondents by using the registration system of the municipality. Data among 1678 Syrian refugees were collected on mental health outcomes using the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist (PCL-5) and the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist (HSCL-25) for depression and anxiety. We also collected data on health care utilisation, barriers to seeking and continuing care as well as knowledge and attitudes towards mental health. Descriptive analyses were used.
The estimated prevalence of symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety was 19.6, 34.7 and 36.1%, respectively. In total, 249 respondents (15%) screened positive for either PTSD, depression or anxiety in our survey and self-reported emotional/behavioural problems since arriving in Sultanbeyli. The treatment gap (the proportion of these 249 people who did not seek care) was 89% for PTSD, 90% for anxiety and 88% for depression. Several structural and attitudinal barriers for not seeking care were reported, including the cost of mental health care, the belief that time would improve symptoms, fear of being stigmatised and lack of knowledge on where and how to get help. Some negative attitudes towards people with mental health problems were reported by respondents.
Syrian refugees hardly access MHPSS services despite high mental health needs, and despite formally having access to the public mental health system in Turkey. To overcome the treatment gap, MHPSS programmes need to be implemented in the community and need to overcome the barriers to seeking care which were identified in this study. Mental health awareness raising activities should be provided in the community alongside the delivery of psychological interventions. This is to increase help-seeking and to tackle negative attitudes towards mental health and people with mental health problems.
In the past few years, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of forcibly displaced migrants worldwide, of which a substantial proportion is refugees and asylum seekers. Refugees and asylum seekers may experience high levels of psychological distress, and show high rates of mental health conditions. It is therefore timely and particularly relevant to assess whether current evidence supports the provision of psychosocial interventions for this population. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the efficacy and acceptability of psychosocial interventions compared with control conditions (treatment as usual/no treatment, waiting list, psychological placebo) aimed at reducing mental health problems in distressed refugees and asylum seekers.
We used Cochrane procedures for conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of RCTs. We searched for published and unpublished RCTs assessing the efficacy and acceptability of psychosocial interventions in adults and children asylum seekers and refugees with psychological distress. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depressive and anxiety symptoms at post-intervention were the primary outcomes. Secondary outcomes include: PTSD, depressive and anxiety symptoms at follow-up, functioning, quality of life and dropouts due to any reason.
We included 26 studies with 1959 participants. Meta-analysis of RCTs revealed that psychosocial interventions have a clinically significant beneficial effect on PTSD (standardised mean difference [SMD] = −0.71; 95% confidence interval [CI] −1.01 to −0.41; I2 = 83%; 95% CI 78–88; 20 studies, 1370 participants; moderate quality evidence), depression (SMD = −1.02; 95% CI −1.52 to −0.51; I2 = 89%; 95% CI 82–93; 12 studies, 844 participants; moderate quality evidence) and anxiety outcomes (SMD = −1.05; 95% CI −1.55 to −0.56; I2 = 87%; 95% CI 79–92; 11 studies, 815 participants; moderate quality evidence). This beneficial effect was maintained at 1 month or longer follow-up, which is extremely important for populations exposed to ongoing post-migration stressors. For the other secondary outcomes, we identified a non-significant trend in favour of psychosocial interventions. Most evidence supported interventions based on cognitive behavioural therapies with a trauma-focused component. Limitations of this review include the limited number of studies collected, with a relatively low total number of participants, and the limited available data for positive outcomes like functioning and quality of life.
Considering the epidemiological relevance of psychological distress and mental health conditions in refugees and asylum seekers, and in view of the existing data on the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions, these interventions should be routinely made available as part of the health care of distressed refugees and asylum seekers. Evidence-based guidelines and implementation packages should be developed accordingly.
Previous research indicates a high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among refugees. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for PTSD for victims of natural disasters, car accidents or other traumatic events. The current study examined the effect of EMDR on symptoms of PTSD and depression by comparing the treatment with a wait-list control condition in Syrian refugees.
Adult refugees located in Kilis Refugee Camp at the Turkish–Syrian border with a PTSD diagnosis were randomly allocated to either EMDR (n = 37) or wait-list control (n = 33) conditions. All participants were assessed with the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview Plus at pre-intervention, at 1 week after finishing the intervention and at 5 weeks after finishing the intervention. The main outcome measures were the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised. The Beck Depression Inventory and the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist-25 were included as secondary outcome measures. The Trial Registration no. is NCT01847742.
Mixed-model analyses adjusted for the baseline scores indicated a significant effect of group at post-treatment indicating that the EMDR therapy group showed a significantly larger reduction of PTSD symptoms as assessed with the HTQ. Similar findings were found on the other outcome measures. There was no effect of time or group × time interaction on any measure, showing that the difference between the groups at the post-treatment was maintained to the 5-week follow-up.
EMDR may be effective in reducing PTSD and depression symptoms among Syrian refugees with PTSD located in a refugee camp.
Older meta-analyses of the effects of psychological treatments of social anxiety disorder have found that these treatments have moderate to large effects. However, these earlier meta-analyses also included non-randomized studies, and there are many featured studies in this area which were published after the recent meta-analysis.
We conducted a systematic literature search and identified 29 randomized studies examining the effects of psychological treatments, with a total of 1628 subjects. The quality of studies varied. For the analyses, we used the computer program comprehensive meta-analysis (version 2.2.021; Biostat, Englewood, NJ, USA).
The mean effect size on social anxiety measures (47 contrast groups) was 0.70, 0.80 on cognitive measures (26 contrast groups) and 0.70 both on depression (19 contrast groups) and general anxiety measures (16 contrast groups). We found some heterogeneity, so we conducted a series of subgroup analyses for different variables of the studies. Studies with waiting-list control groups had significantly larger effect sizes than studies with placebo and treatment-as-usual control groups. Studies aimed at subjects who met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for social anxiety disorder had smaller effect sizes than studies in which other inclusion criteria were used.
This study once more makes it clear that psychological treatments of social anxiety disorder are effective in adults, but that they may be less effective in more severe disorders and in studies in which care-as-usual and placebo control groups are used.
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