Research Topic

Struggle for Survival: Mental Health Risks of Refugee Children and Adolescents during Immigration and Repatriation

About this Research Topic

Children and adolescents are vulnerable individuals in times of war and refuge as they are exposed to poverty, social exclusion, exploitation, forced repatriation and associated health risks. During wars and conflict, the social and cultural development of children and adolescent refugees is disrupted in multiple ways. They are confronted with changing family dynamics in that many have to take on caring responsibilities for younger siblings or parents who suffer from psychological or physical injuries. Children and adolescents who flee abroad are additionally challenged with learning a new language, education system and culture. Particularly refugees who fled to LMICs often live in sub-standard housing in refugee camps where it is difficult to meet their basic needs including food and clean water. Refugee camps are also locations with limited security and expose young people to harassment, sexual abuse and physical violence. Those who remain in their country of origin as Internally Displaced Persons, might have less trouble with learning a new language or new culture, but may be confronted to a higher degree with political instability. Such traumatic experiences and everyday stressors have been shown to affect children’s and adolescent’s mental health and well being in multiple and complex ways. Furthermore, the repatriation of refugees involves moving an already vulnerable, possibly traumatized population back to a place of distressing memories, social and economic problems, and stigmatization too.

The refugee experience of children and adolescents and their families is a non-linear continuum with changing uncertainties, challenges and opportunities affecting their dignity, mental health and well-being. The provision of professional mental health, psychosocial and social support needs to respond to these complexities and dynamics based on existing knowledge and evidence as well as through learning-by-doing in order to be responsive to the specific needs of those affected.

This Research Topic seeks to examine how war-related stressors as well as social, societal, economic and political factors affect the health and well-being of displaced children, adolescents and families. Specifically, we are interested in contributions that investigate in differentiated ways the relative impact of area-level, family-level, and individual-level predictors of poor (mental) health; to prevention, intersectoral and human-rights based approaches to social support and mental health treatment; multi-disciplinary and intersectoral policy development that integrate services into national and local health, education and social systems; and innovative methods to research and action including eco-social, participatory and co-production approaches.

Contributors are welcome to use the formats of an original research article, brief research report, systematic review, review, mini-review, policy and practice review, hypothesis and theory, perspective, case report, community case study, general commentary, or opinion.

Studies addressing the following themes are strongly encouraged:

• Structural and social determinants of health: child and adolescent mental health and forced displacement
• Structural and social determinants of health: risks to youth and families as a result of migration
• Child, adolescent and family mental health and psychosocial support: strengths and indicators of well-being during forced migration
• Family mental health and psychosocial support during migration: early interventions to reduce risk
• Adolescents and migration: risks and protective factors of family well-being
• Adolescent recovery capital (social, cultural, human, and physical capital) and mental health
• Resilience and mental health among immigrants
• The symptom representation of mental disorders in refugee children and adolescents
• Suicide attempts, non-suicidal self-injury among accompanied or unaccompanied minor refugees.


Keywords: Migration, Forced Displacement, Mental Health, Resilience, Interventions


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Children and adolescents are vulnerable individuals in times of war and refuge as they are exposed to poverty, social exclusion, exploitation, forced repatriation and associated health risks. During wars and conflict, the social and cultural development of children and adolescent refugees is disrupted in multiple ways. They are confronted with changing family dynamics in that many have to take on caring responsibilities for younger siblings or parents who suffer from psychological or physical injuries. Children and adolescents who flee abroad are additionally challenged with learning a new language, education system and culture. Particularly refugees who fled to LMICs often live in sub-standard housing in refugee camps where it is difficult to meet their basic needs including food and clean water. Refugee camps are also locations with limited security and expose young people to harassment, sexual abuse and physical violence. Those who remain in their country of origin as Internally Displaced Persons, might have less trouble with learning a new language or new culture, but may be confronted to a higher degree with political instability. Such traumatic experiences and everyday stressors have been shown to affect children’s and adolescent’s mental health and well being in multiple and complex ways. Furthermore, the repatriation of refugees involves moving an already vulnerable, possibly traumatized population back to a place of distressing memories, social and economic problems, and stigmatization too.

The refugee experience of children and adolescents and their families is a non-linear continuum with changing uncertainties, challenges and opportunities affecting their dignity, mental health and well-being. The provision of professional mental health, psychosocial and social support needs to respond to these complexities and dynamics based on existing knowledge and evidence as well as through learning-by-doing in order to be responsive to the specific needs of those affected.

This Research Topic seeks to examine how war-related stressors as well as social, societal, economic and political factors affect the health and well-being of displaced children, adolescents and families. Specifically, we are interested in contributions that investigate in differentiated ways the relative impact of area-level, family-level, and individual-level predictors of poor (mental) health; to prevention, intersectoral and human-rights based approaches to social support and mental health treatment; multi-disciplinary and intersectoral policy development that integrate services into national and local health, education and social systems; and innovative methods to research and action including eco-social, participatory and co-production approaches.

Contributors are welcome to use the formats of an original research article, brief research report, systematic review, review, mini-review, policy and practice review, hypothesis and theory, perspective, case report, community case study, general commentary, or opinion.

Studies addressing the following themes are strongly encouraged:

• Structural and social determinants of health: child and adolescent mental health and forced displacement
• Structural and social determinants of health: risks to youth and families as a result of migration
• Child, adolescent and family mental health and psychosocial support: strengths and indicators of well-being during forced migration
• Family mental health and psychosocial support during migration: early interventions to reduce risk
• Adolescents and migration: risks and protective factors of family well-being
• Adolescent recovery capital (social, cultural, human, and physical capital) and mental health
• Resilience and mental health among immigrants
• The symptom representation of mental disorders in refugee children and adolescents
• Suicide attempts, non-suicidal self-injury among accompanied or unaccompanied minor refugees.


Keywords: Migration, Forced Displacement, Mental Health, Resilience, Interventions


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

18 January 2021 Abstract
21 May 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

18 January 2021 Abstract
21 May 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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