Trauma and Mental Health in Syrian Refugees

Among Syrian refugees, the most prevalent mental health diagnoses include depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), prolonged grief disorder and anxiety disorders. 

Over 80% of refugees exposed to trauma recover spontaneously upon reaching safety. Refugee patients’ mental health benefits from attention to basic needs such as shelter, language acquisition and ability to work or attend school. 

The CCIRH guidelines recommend against routine screening for trauma and torture, but recommend that clinicians be alert for impaired functioning or high levels of suffering that might be related to PTSD, depression, anxiety or exposure to violence. 

The PROTECT Questionnaire was developed by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) as a tool to identify refugees with trauma-related mental health needs. It consists of ten questions and uses a simple rating scale to predict who is at risk of mental health deterioration, and would benefit from referral and further evaluation. 

The Provincial Toll-Free Refugee Mental Health Line (1-866-393-3133) is operated by the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST) and provides consultation during working hours to front-line providers (clinical, school and settlement) working with refugees.

IFH covers counseling by a registered clinical psychologist who is an IFH provider, with prior approval. Also consider referral to a community mental health team or psychiatrist. 

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has developed the Refugee Mental Health Project, an initiative which aims to build providers’ knowledge and skills around refugee mental health through online courses, toolkits and webinars.

BC Refugee Readiness Fund is part of the WelcomeBC
umbrella of services, made possible through funding
from the Province of British Columbia.