Special psychiatric issues of refugee children

Children in all societies are dependent on the social and political context of their lives. They live in relationship to their environment—the people, the physical setting, and the day-to-day experience of their families, friends, and communities. Because children rely on these factors, they are especially affected by powerful experiences such as violence and war. Furthermore, children of all ages are aware of their experiences and have an age-appropriate response. For example, if refugee children have experienced or witnessed trauma (e.g. physical injury or murder of a parent), they will eventually 'record' these events in the form of physical pain, emotional distress, and aberrant behaviours. Therefore it is important for the mental health professional caring for refugee children to be able to recognize the traumatic life experiences of refugee children, their manner of expressing emotional distress and suffering, and those risk factors that increase their vulnerability and decrease their resiliency. The recognition of these factors can lead to culturally effective approaches for treatment and prevention.

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