What can we learn from unaccompanied refugee adolescents’ perspectives on mental health care in exile?
Unaccompanied refugee adolescents who have fled war and persecution often have poor mental health. Yet, little is known about their own perspectives on what can relieve their mental health problems. The aim was to explore unaccompanied refugee adolescents’ perspectives on healing and the mental healthcare offered to them when resettled. The study was based on methodical triangulation of participant observation in a Danish municipal institution for unaccompanied refugee minors, semi-structured individual interviews with experts, social workers and male refugee minors and a focus group interview with refugee minors. Results show that the refugee adolescents associated traditional conversational therapy with discussing negative and stigmatising aspects of their past and carrying risks of re-traumatisation. Instead, alternative activities were proposed, through which resources could be accumulated and they could be met without stereotype.
What is Known:
• Unaccompanied refugee adolescents are at risk of poor mental health outcomes, e.g., depression, anxiety, PTSD and psychosocial stress.
• Stigma, lack of social support, stressful life events and lack of intercultural competency among mental health professionals are barriers to good mental health.
What is New:
• There is a need for informal and tailored health promotion initiatives in the refugee adolescents’ everyday lives.
• To treat the refugee adolescents as equal human beings through curiosity and receptiveness to their resources is important in order to build trust and address stigma.
KeywordsExile Minors Psychosocial URM Well-being Youth perspective
Convention of the Rights of the Child
Post-traumatic stress syndrome
The World Health Organization
FJ and SSJ conceived the study. FJ conducted the fieldwork, performed the data analysis, wrote the first draft of the manuscript and finalised the manuscript. SSJ supervised the study design and the analysis. SG, ID, KV and SSJ contributed to critically reviewing and revising the manuscript. The final manuscript as submitted is approved by all authors.
Compliance with ethical statements
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
Before the fieldwork, a detailed information sheet about the researcher and the aim of the study was provided to all participants. Informed consent was given by all participants in the study. For participants younger than 18 years of age, informed consent was also given by legally authorised representatives. All details which might lead to identification of the participants were changed in the presentation of the results.
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