Health professionals, teachers, law enforcement professionals and others can find guidance on how best to provide culturally appropriate aid to those
displaced by the Syrian civil war in the new online guide
“Working with Refugees from Syria and Surrounding Middle
East Countries.” Published by the Public Mental Health
Initiative based in Manitoba, Canada, and edited by clinical
psychologist Rehman Abdulrehman, PhD, along with six guest
editors, the tip sheet includes advice from more than a dozen
international contributors on such topics as how to build trust
with this community and how to respect “gender courtesy” in
Muslim and Middle Eastern culture — where men and women
may avoid physical contact with a member of the opposite sex
they don’t know well.
The guide also lists best practices on working with Syrian
refugee children and includes a section on issues unique to
mental health care. Among the recommendations is to offer
psychological care in primary-care settings alongside a medical
team whenever possible, as a way to lessen the cultural stigma
of mental illness. Another is to avoid assuming that all trauma
experienced by refugees occurred in their home country.
“Racism, discrimination and Islamophobia in their new
country can have a serious negative effect on the mental health
of an individual,” says Abdulrehman, an assistant professor at
the University of Manitoba and a member of APA’s Committee
on International Relations in Psychology.
As Canada welcomes 25,000 Syrian refugees for resettlement,
Abdulrehman and his collaborators have circulated the guide to
all Canadian law enforcement agencies, as well as hospitals and
many social service agencies. Now they are working to spread
the guide beyond their borders. The hope is that more informed
providers will improve immediate aid and increase access to
mental health care over the long term.
“Within the immigrant population … it is so hard to
access mental health care,” says Abdulrehman, who works with
immigrants in his clinical practice and immigrated to Canada
from Tanzania when he was a child. “Often people in those
populations don’t have a voice, or anyone speaking on their
Find the guide at http://clinicpsychology.com/wp-content/
uploads/2016/04/tip-sheets-final.pdf. The Public Mental
Health Initiative is a public education campaign that aims to
increase understanding about mental health issues. For more
information, visit http://clinicpsychology.com/pmhi/ or follow
Rehman Abdulrehman on Twitter at @drrabdulrehman.
— Jamie Chamberlin
A new online resource
for working with Syrian refugees
The Public Mental Health Initiative has published
a tip sheet that offers guidance on how to aid and
build trust with the Syrian refugee community.