Support for refugees is generally considered to include things that meet basic needs like food, water, shelter and health care. But what about refugees’ mental health?
Cox’s Bazar, a district in southeast Bangladesh, is home to what the United Nations has named the world’s largest refugee settlement. In Cox’s Bazar and around the world, aid organizations have long provided programming and assistance to displaced populations. But more recently, those interventions have expanded to include efforts to improve residents’ mental well-being. The good news is that these programs can make a significant difference in the lives of residents – but only if they work.
Amanda Nguyen, assistant professor in the University of Virginia’s School of Education and Human Development, led a project last spring that reviewed current research on the effectiveness of psychosocial support interventions on displaced people around the world. Often closely connected to mental health support, psychosocial supports are activities aimed at strengthening social connectedness, social supports, coping skills, and the like to support and improve well-being. The review, conducted in partnership with Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy faculty members Kirsten Gelsdorf, professor of practice of public policy, and Lucy Bassett, associate professor of practice of public policy, found that early research shows positive impacts of these programs. But more research is needed.
“Not long ago, there was very little focus on mental health in conflict-affected populations,” Nguyen said. “Now that it is increasing, good intentions are not enough. We need to know if what we’re doing, with the limited available funds, is helping people.”
Read more at News.Virginia.edu.