ESCAP 2017 state of the art lecture by Dimitris Anagnostopoulos (National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece), Milica Pejovic Milovancevic (Institute of Mental Health, Belgrade, Serbia) and Henrikje Klasen (De Jutters; Center for Youth Psychiatry; The Hague and Leiden University Medical Centre) on ESCAP for mental health of child and adolescent refugees.
Humanitarian emergencies such as war and armed conflict can have a direct impact on the psychosocial well-being and mental health of children and adults, alongside with the physical, environmental and financial burden. Since 2015, over 1.3 million refugees and migrants have arrived to European countries by the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, almost 3 million Syrian refugees are living in Turkey. Among them more than 25% are children and adolescents while the closure of the Balkan route and political arrangements with Turkey have led to a marked decrease of refugees arriving in Northern Europe, total numbers continue to increase as people flee their homelands due to human rights violations, persecution, poverty and conflict. Refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants are at heightened risk for certain mental health disorders, including post-traumatic stress, depression and psychosis.
Child refugees, face intense psychological trauma prior, during and after their flight, as a result of fleeing their homelands and entering into states of uncertainty, physical danger and distress. They have experienced and witnessed violence, lost loved ones, faced deprivation and been separated from their families. Many of the unaccompanied child refugees, both boys and girls, were sexually and physical abused. These atrocities have lasting effects that should be of concern to the countries where they will eventually settle. The psychosocial impact on individual, family and community level leads to limited ability to function in everyday life. There is an urgent need of an international policy concern and a priority for research evidence.
ESCAP has taken a clear position in the refugee crisis, standing up for the mental health and well being of refugee children, adolescents and their families. A Task group initiated by Board members within ESCAP has started to collect relevant knowledge and experience to support mental health workers involved with the care for refugee children and post on website.“ESCAP for mental health of child and adolescent refugees” project is aimed to make the necessary knowledge available everywhere in Europe where professionals and volunteers are helping these children and their families; the idea is to come out with a program of activities that must enhance the availability and quality of mental health care for young refugees. European child and adolescent psychiatrists are aware that the exposure to war adversities vastly increases the risk of these youngsters to develop psychiatric disorders such as PTSD, anxiety disorders, mood disorders or behavioral disorders. All 33 National Associations of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as ESCAP members, were called to defend the mental health of young refugees and to present the ESCAP position statement to their governments. We realized that at the national level, the specific challenges and opportunities for child mental health differ across Europe depending on the number of refugees, their countries of origin and their age; also, national practice and policy on child mental health protection vary through Europe. The project members take position to promote healthy adaptation of young refugees and their families on new living circumstances and to lower their risks of developing mental health problems. For those young refugees with serious mental disorders who require psychiatric treatment, ESCAP takes a pragmatic approach and call for child and adolescent psychiatrists throughout Europe and beyond to come up with relevant in-depth information and ideas and best clinical evidence. Useful stories, empirical knowledge, recommendations and practical examples are used for creating a platform of knowledge to support mental health care for refugee children. Using our expertise and showing leadership in this situation is important and can prevent suffering now and in the future.
View Dimitris Anagnostopoulos' slide presentation (pdf, 93 pages).
View more on this topic on the dedicated Refugee Children page.