Improving Mental Health among Refugee Women

21st January 2020
Author: Sue Enfield

This report reviews the evidence that offering specific interventions (over and above mental health services provided through a national health system) can improve the mental health and wellbeing of refugee women. This review found very little evidence that is backed by robust evaluation to show that other specific interventions improve mental health for refugee women and promote their integration. There is some recognition that interventions that recognise and foster the natural adaptive ways of communities’ coping and allow the community to retain a sense of agency and self-respect are useful. There is limited reliable data for types of mental health interventions which actually work for refugee groups with some evidence for the efficacy of specialised cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) where this incorporates cultural knowledge into standard CBT and some positive evidence from narrative exposure therapy (NET).Refugee women are a sizeable, heterogenous and growing group who face several integration challenges associated with poorer health and lower education. Overall, the literature describing direct mental health interventions and indirect community based psychosocial non-specialist interventions is wide ranging but there is a gap in robust evidence that would support specific approaches.

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Suggested Citation

Enfield, S. (2020). Improving Mental Health for Refugee Women. K4D Helpdesk Report 735. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


21st January 2020


Continent: Global