Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Mental health issues in unaccompanied refugee minors

Julia Huemer1*, Niranjan S Karnik2, Sabine Voelkl-Kernstock1, Elisabeth Granditsch1, Kanita Dervic1, Max H Friedrich1 and Hans Steiner3

Author Affiliations

1 Medical University of Vienna, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Waehringer Guertel 18-20, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

2 University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine, 3333 California Street, Suite 485, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA

3 Stanford University School of Medicine, Child Psychiatry and Child Development, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 401 Quarry Road, Stanford, CA, 94305-5719, USA

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2009, 3:13  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-3-13

Published: 2 April 2009

Abstract

Previous studies about unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs) showed that they are a highly vulnerable group who have greater psychiatric morbidity than the general population. This review focuses on mental health issues among URMs. Articles in databases PsycINFO, Medline and PubMed from 1998 to 2008 addressing this topic were reviewed. The literature had a considerable emphasis on the assessment of PTSD symptoms. Results revealed higher levels of PTSD symptoms in comparison to the norm populations and accompanied refugee minors. In several studies, age and female gender predicted or influenced PTSD symptoms. The existing literature only permits limited conclusions on this very hard to reach population. Future research should include the analysis of long-term outcomes, stress management and a more thorough analysis of the whole range of psychopathology. Additionally, the development of culturally sensitive norms and standardized measures for diverse ethnic groups is of great importance.