• From the World Wars to Bosnia to Afghanistan to Syria, war and violence has in every decade, for every generation displaced millions of people around the world as they flee to find sanctuary in new places. When they reach refugee camps or the nearest cities, for some safety doesn’t bring immediate relief after witnessing insurmountable death and violence. In this unprecedented time of civil war and community violence, comes the equally urgent need to provide mental health care for the millions of people who now find themselves classified as refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced or stateless.


    Our research spans the vast contexts of community instability, gang violence and war that trigger displacement and the changes it causes to our neurological, psychological and physiological development and well-being along the way.


    The humanitarian crisis out of Syria has focused efforts on ensuring immediate provision of food, shelter, medicine on boats at sea, onshore and in shelters. With tens of thousands of people perishing at sea to reach safety, we are increasingly seeing civil society organisations in need of training and education on Psychological First Aid (PFA) at points of rescue to know how best to provide comfort and reduce the risk of retraumatisation. We are currently working with frontline organisations and leading specialists on PFA to produce best practices and toolkits that can be translated through workshops and training to better equip organisations, communities and volunteers with the skills and knowledge to respond appropriately to distress at sea and in shelters.


    Wars of the past give us an important insight into the cascading effect of psychological trauma and what this may foretell for us in today’s conflicts. We are currently developing partnerships in Ukraine, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda to look at the continuing struggles of children now coming of age in societies that are still trapped in the trauma of war, memories of betrayal and violence committed against neighbours. For the youth today and their parents, we are aiming to see what healing processes can be supported to help prevent the transmittance of trauma. Our findings will help open further research into the challenges that may lay ahead for children and young adults from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Congo and other protracted wars.


    For places where war has seen no end, whole life experiences are defined by trauma, violence and forced displacement. Our research focuses on Palestine due to the nature of both occupation and forced removal. We are currently exploring the impact of mental health under occupation and continued exile for Palestinians in the diaspora, including childhood and transgenerational trauma. We also want to understand how resilience under occupation and healing in exile is sustained within communities to give better insight into how these sources of hope and endurance can be supported.


    Beyond war, our research will also study the impact of gang violence in South America and its lingering toll on immigrant and undocumented communities in the United States, especially those who have fled urban violence in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras and El Salvador - countries that are the most violent places on the planet. Our research will attempt to identify the ongoing fear and anxiety that immigrant and undocumented communities have in the context of today's America and the psychological toll of policies leading to the separation, detention and removal of undocumented children and mothers across the United States.


    The Syrian crisis has also sparked a huge debate over resettlement. Our research lies in understanding how psychological traumas, including waking nightmares, toxic stress, and grief, may impede social integration and compound isolation. Our studies will focus on key host states to see how cities and host communities are recognising these challenges and supporting inclusion and integration efforts alongside psychosocial care. We will seek to study the serious issues of increasing fear, anxiety and greater suicide ideation among young unaccompanied minors and the lack of psychologcial support for men and boys within gender programmes. There is particular focus on the unique challenges faced by more vulnerable minority groups that are often overlooked in resettlement, including LGBTQ+ persons, disabled, detained individuals, torture survivors, and victims of sexual and gender-based violence.


    Our research findings will used to shape toolkits, workshops and trainings to address the particular challenges and approaches that can be adopted by individuals and communities to create more spaces for healing.



    External to and published independently of Between Borders

  • The Sphere Project (2011): Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

    Migration Policy Institute (2016): Mental Health Risks and Resilience Among Somali and Bhutanese Refugee Parents.

    International Medical Corps (2017): Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Considerations for Syrian Refugees in Turkey.



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