A refugee is someone who is outside his country of origin because of a well-founded fear of persecution for grounds of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and is unable to or unwilling to seek protection from that country.

Many refugees, particularly children, have endured trauma as a result of conflict or persecution, which can have long-term effects on their mental and physical health. These traumatic incidents might occur while refugees are still in their home country, during their displacement, or during the resettlement process.

During displacement, refugee children often face many of the same types of traumatic events or hardships that they faced in their country of origin, as well as new experiences such as:

  • Living in refugee camps
  • Separation from family
  • Loss of community
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Harassment by local authorities
  • Traveling long distances by foot
  • Detention

Elisa E. Bolton, PhD

According to the United States Committee for Refugees, there were 14.9 million refugees and 22 million internally displaced persons in the world in 2002. Over the last 60 years, organized political violence has increasingly targeted civilian populations, resulting in a rising international issue. These refugees include men, women, and children from various walks of life and living situations. As refugees, they have frequently left behind their livelihoods, communities, and the majority of their belongings. Although many people adjust well, many others experience substantial psychological suffering as a result of their exposure to horrific events and the rigors of living as a refugee.

  • A post-arrival health check should include an assessment of emotional well-being and mental health, while concerns in these areas may only emerge over time as trust and rapport building.
  • It is generally not a good idea to inquire about people’s experiences of torture and trauma, especially on first visits, although the possible effects on psychological health should be considered.
  • Suicide risk assessment should be considered in those who have or think they have a mental health problem.
  • When assessing children, take into account functional impairment, behavioral challenges, developmental progress, as well as mental health symptoms, as well as the impact of parents’ mental health on their children’s well-being.

The most often mentioned refugee vocational stressor, according to a content analysis of open-ended surveys collected from 159 refugees, was access and opportunity (31 percent of comments made about vocational stressors). This meta-theme includes feeling as if previous work experience is being overlooked in the job search, job search difficulties, and exploitation (e.g., low pay). Acculturative, discriminatory, interpersonal, economic, and personal vocational pressures were among the other meta-themes. Reflection and relaxation (25 percent) and problem-solving actions (24 percent) were the most generally stated coping techniques in qualitative reports of coping.

Behavior problems, melancholy and anxiety, adjustment and impulse control issues, and posttraumatic stress disorder are just a few of the numerous conditions that are common in refugee camps.  Because of the developmental, cognitive, and emotional weaknesses that children face in conflict zones, they are especially vulnerable. More than 1 million youngsters have been recruited to serve as soldiers as a result of ethnic–political conflict by both government agencies and state opponents. Nearly two million children have died as a result of the employment of children as soldiers, with another four to six million injured and more than 12 million children abandoned or made homeless.

Refugee Trauma Resources

  • NCTSN learning center also provides bits of help regarding matters of physical abuse.
  • Mending the soul is a united state based website that highlights the risks and the nature of physical abuse in the U.S: https://mendingthesoul.org
  • Tylor and Francis online is a journal where different researches about physical abuse in the U.S is highlighted: https://www.tandfonline.com/



  • Journey to the refuge by TD Harlow
  • Restoring Sanctuary: A New Operating System for Trauma-Informed Systems of Care 1st Edition by Sandra L. Bloom