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Transcult Psychiatry. 2009 Dec;46(4):584-607. doi: 10.1177/1363461509351363.

Help-seeking for mental health problems in young refugees: a review of the literature with implications for policy, practice, and research.

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  • 1School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, Magill Campus, St Bernards Road, Magill, SA 5072, Australia.


The large and diverse bodies of literature on refugee child and adolescent mental health have not been matched by a commensurate interest in help-seeking. Most help-seeking research has centred on Western and, to a lesser extent, non-refugee ethnic minority adult populations. An emerging child and adolescent help-seeking literature consistently reports widespread underutilization of mental health services by children in the general population. Current research and opinion suggest a similar trend for refugee and other ethnic minority children. While service underutilization appears to be an issue for all children, those from refugee backgrounds may be at increased risk of mental health problems and have greater difficulty accessing mental health care. From a policy and practice perspective, the most important explanation for low uptake of services by refugee families concerns an overall failure of Western mental health systems to accommodate the needs of ethnically diverse populations in general and refugees in particular. In order to effectively plan for the mental health needs of refugee children and adolescents, Western host country governments need a clear understanding of help-seeking behaviour.

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