Panos Vostanis

Abstract – 2017 ESCAP Congress, Geneva

Where are they all coming from? Child mental health services response to the refugee crisis

'Where are they all coming from?' Original state of the art abstract by Panos Vostanis (Leicester University and University College London, UK) on Child mental health services response to the refugee crisis: practice, service and research (ESCAP 2017 Congress in Geneva, Switzerland).


European child mental health services and related agencies are faced with an increasing challenge in responding to the influx of refugee children. This presentation will address practice, service and research issues, and will make recommendations in the context of existing evidence.
There is strong evidence on the prevalence and complexity of these children’s mental health problems and broader needs. The existing body of literature is largely based on identifying risk factors among children with mental health problems and predominantly designing trauma-focused interventions to reduce their symptomatic distress. Recent research and services have gradually shifted to a broader and dynamic resilience-building approach based on ecological theory, i.e. at child, family, school, community and societal level. There is increasing evidence for the implementation and effectiveness of interventions at all these levels, despite the methodological constraints in their evaluation.
In Europe, child mental health services need to collaborate with all agencies in contact with refugee children, establish joint care pathways, and integrate trauma-focused interventions with family and community approaches. In low- and middle-income countries, where specialist resources are sparse, resilience-building should aim at maximizing and upskilling existing capacity. European professionals have an important training, consultative and training role in this objective. A six-dimension psychosocial model that also applies to other children who experience complex trauma is proposed, based on the World Awareness for Children in Trauma programme (WACIT).

View Panos Vostanis' slide presentation (pdf, 19 pages).