Evaluating and Responding to the Mental Health Needs of Refugees

Bolstering the emotional well-being of refugees to increase self-sufficiency and ease adjustment to life in the United States

    • January 14, 2014

Dates of Project: July 2009 through June 2013

Description: Studies have shown a high prevalence of depression, panic attacks, traumatic brain injuries, and multiple physical complaints in refugees. They also have 10 times the rate of PTSD as the general population. However, few resettlement programs evaluate or address the mental health of refugees during the resettlement process. Consequently, there are few data to influence the development of timely and culturally appropriate mental health services.

The project team developed, validated, and gauged the consistency of a 15-question mental health screening tool for refugees, called the Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15). They also translated it into 11 languages. As a result of outreach by the project team, 44 cities are using the Refugee Health Screener-15.

They also created a mental health program for refugees called Pathways to Wellness. To aid in efforts to replicate the Pathways program, the project team provided training and consultation at 14 sites to more than 500 community health workers, nurses, community members, mental health practitioners, and doctors.

The Pathways to Wellness program has received four awards in recognition of its value in addressing the mental health needs of refugees.

The report includes the story of W., an imam who had fled Iraq after being shot in the back and left for dead. The Pathways to Wellness program helped him work his way back to a stable, productive life.

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Lutheran Community Services NW created & validated mental health screening tool for traumatized refugees

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