Red Cross station in Serbia, 2015 (photo: Unicef).

ESCAP’s “pragmatic approach”

Organizing the knowledge to support mental health care for refugee children

“Currently millions of children are on the run from war persecution and poverty. Many of them have experienced and witnessed violence, have lost loved ones, have faced deprivation and have been separated from their families. As European child and adolescent psychiatrists we are painfully aware that the exposure to these adversities vastly increases the risk of these youngsters to develop psychiatric disorders such as PTSD, anxiety disorders, mood disorders or behavioural disorders”, says Dr Henrikje Klasen, board member of ESCAP and participant in the ESCAP task group that intends to carry out for these children what always has been ESCAP’s core activity: sharing state-of-the-art knowledge to improve mental health care.

ESCAP's reaction when the numbers of refugees entering Europe started peaking, was to organize relevant knowledge to support mental health workers involved with the care for refugee children. The working group will soon be ready to come out with a programme of activities that must enhance the availability and quality of mental health care for young refugees. The aim of this project – titled ESCAP for mental health of child and adolescent refugees – is to make the necessary knowledge available everywhere in Europe where professionals and volunteers are helping these children and their families.


To gather and distribute relevant knowledge
The aims and mission of this initiative will be published as an editorial in the January issue of European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (ECAP), the official ESCAP journal. The initiators take position to promote healthy adaptation of young refugees and their families and to lower their risks of developing mental health problems. Johannes Hebebrand (editor-in-chief of ECAP, board member and participant in the refugee initiative) says: “For 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. This valuable knowledge will then be distributed to any caregiver through the internet, together with the relevant guidance that was already available. Questions that cannot be answered immediately will be posted on an online forum to collect the lacking knowledge. The task group also considers to organize a needs assessment to collect the most urgent questions related to refugees facing clinicians.

Call for input
The evidence-based guidance will be accompanied by a journalistic approach, featuring eyewitness stories, backgrounds, experiences of caregivers and other advisory stories – both scientific and clinical – that may support the mental health care for child and adolescent refugees. ESCAP calls for all useful stories, experiential knowledge, recommendations and practical hints. The ESCAP team will do its very best to process all input into a useful platform of knowledge to support mental health care for refugee children. Please email: