Session II: Addressing Mental Health Disparities in Refugee Children: Family and Community-based Preventions

Abstract

What works best to address the acute mental health needs in refugee populations? This Paper describes a community-based participatory research (CBPR) process to develop and evaluate a family home visiting intervention to promote positive caregiver-child relationships, family functioning, and child mental health among refugees resettling in the United States. Our CBPR collaboration model builds on more than 10 years of research in partnership with refugee communities, including Somali Bantu and Lhotshampas Bhutanese populations in New England.

The two groups helped to plan and implement a pilot feasibility pilot of the Family Strengthening Intervention for Refugees (FSI-R) with support from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Our CBPR approach involved a community research coalition that engaged with and across two distinct refugee groups to develop knowledge of both common and diverging community needs and to develop, refine and pilot a family-home visiting prevention model. Qualitative data was used to select, adapt and create assessment tools and to inform the development of the FSI-R to meet the unique needs of refugees resettled in the United States. These needs included locally-based, culturally specific conceptualizations of mental health problems, attitudes about parenting and help seeking, and service preferences for mental health and preventive services among each group. With support from Community Advisory Boards (CABs) and a strong research team from both refugee communities, we launched a small feasibility pilot to prepare for a future randomized controlled trial (RCT). Experiences and findings to date will be discussed as well as implications for future research of this nature.