Psychiatric screening

If mental health practitioners are to treat refugee patients, they must be able to assess the refugee's major risk factors and traumatic outcomes. Simple screening instruments culturally adapted to the language, trauma, and symptoms of refugee patients have been found to be extremely effective as well as being well received by refugees themselves/3 32 and 33> For example, a simple well-known screening instrument adapted from the Hopkins Symptom Checklist allowed Indochinese patients for the first time to provide their symptoms with little distress. The development of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire further revealed that these same patients could provide answers to lists of possible trauma events and symptoms without becoming retraumatized. Overall, two major lessons have been learned from the use of simple checklists with refugee survivors.

1. The checklist acknowledges the traumatic life experiences of the refugee survivors and de facto gives them permission to elaborate on the details of their trauma.

2. The checklist, as a simple medical test, helps refugees to 'put words around' events and symptoms that would be too emotionally overwhelming for them in an open-ended interview.

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