ISTSS Issues Briefing Paper on Trauma and Mental Health in Forcibly Displaced Populations

CHICAGO, IL, November 9, 2017 – The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), the leading global organization promoting the advancement and exchange of knowledge about severe stress and trauma, today released a briefing paper on trauma and mental health in forcibly displaced populations.

A group of experts on the mental health of individuals from refugee backgrounds came together to summarize the research that has been conducted in this area and provide recommendations for research, clinical practice and policy.

“This briefing paper was commissioned to inform ISTSS members, partners, policymakers and global stakeholders about the existing research evidence regarding trauma and the mental health of populations forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution,” said Angela Nickerson, PhD.

As of the end of 2016, there were over 65 million people forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of conflict and persecution. The experiences of conflict, persecution and forced displacement have a pervasive negative impact on the mental health of refugees and asylum-seekers. There is a global recognition of the importance of understanding and meeting the mental health needs of refugees and asylum-seekers worldwide.

“This briefing paper highlights the potential role that organizations like ISTSS can play in promoting and disseminating research findings to build an evidence base that informs the support of displaced individuals,” said Nickerson.

ISTSS recommends a number of actions to improve knowledge regarding trauma and refugee mental health and to better address the mental health needs of those affected by persecution and displacement including:
  • Evidence-based psychological therapies should be made available to refugees and asylum-seekers in need of treatment;
  • Changes to immigration, settlement and MHPSS policy;
  • Implementation of evidence-based treatments (such as trauma-focused interventions for PTSD) where possible and via a trained interpreter if required; and
  • An increased focus on refugee and asylum-seeker mental health by relevant professional organizations.

ISTSS is an international interdisciplinary professional organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about traumatic stress.
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