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Syrian Refugee Children – Psychological Support

Basis for interventions

Children under 18 account for over 50% of the displaced Syrian refugees with approximately 40% under 12 years old.  Many find themselves alone in a strange country.

It is crucial to understand the impact of these children’s experiences on their mental health. It is also important to grasp that the impact of these experiences if untreated or treated incorrectly or partially will have long term consequences on the children themselves and on wider society as a whole.

Syrian Refugee Children – Psychological SupportMany of the fleeing children have been caught in the crossfire of war.   Most have seen death at close range. Often they have seen a parent killed, others have become permanently separated from parents in the chaos of fleeing conflict.  In the UK it is hard to conceptualise this level of psychological trauma.

Research undertaken with refugee children identifies Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as by far the most prevalent condition that these children are living with and this requires timely diagnosis and specialist treatment.  Depression and behavioural problems, including aggression and other social affective disorders are the next most common consequences of the conflict on children.   These difficulties yield a very high cost for the individuals and society in general.

Responding to the psychological needs of refugee children calls for a necessary new and specialist paradigm in treatment.

There must be an emphasis placed on early psychological assessment of children.  This early screening is crucial to the immediate and ongoing needs of children.

Professionals must also be trained in identifying PTSD symptoms in children of a different culture. Recognising trauma in displaced children is more difficult than the identification of ptsd in the English speaking population.

There is an absolute requirement for clinically robust PTSD treatment that is provided in a congruent narrative.

It is a considerable challenge to provide effective treatment and to deliver such interventions using the skills of an interpreter.  The children will arrive in the UK with experiences very different from that of western European children.

Effective treatment incorporates their existing cultural experiences while subtly introducing uk culture.   It must be remembered that being suddenly immersed into another culture causes difficulty for a child let alone arriving in a strange culture already traumatised and without the protection of attachment figures.

A high level of communication, a positive working relationship and a high level of trust is needed between all those involved to deliver such a sensitive and crucial package.

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