The Role of Schools in Identifying and Referring Refugee Background Young People Who Are Experiencing Mental Health Issues

Melanie Baak, Emily Miller, Anna Ziersch, Clemence Due, Shepard Masocha, Tahereh Ziaian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

BACKGROUND
Refugee background young people are at increased risk of mental health problems. In countries of refugee resettlement, schools are important sites where mental health difficulties can be identified and service access facilitated; however, little is known about how best to support these practices within schools.

METHODS
This article explores school and mental health service providers' perspectives on mental health challenges and referral pathways for refugee youth in South Australia. It draws on semi-structured in-depth interviews with 17 secondary school staff and 10 mental health service providers, which were analyzed thematically.

RESULTS
Key challenges for school staff in identifying mental health issues were understanding behaviors, overcoming stigma, cultural and linguistic barriers, engaging with parents, staff preparation and training, and embeddedness within Western understandings of mental health. There was also limited awareness of appropriate mental health services and referral pathways. Service providers recognized schools' key role in identifying mental health issues for refugee students.

CONCLUSIONS
Enhanced training and support is required for teachers to identify and refer students who might be experiencing mental health issues. “On-site” school services, bi-cultural workers, and increased knowledge of existing within-school supports and referral pathways to external services would enhance outcomes for refugee students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-181
Number of pages10
JournalJOURNAL OF SCHOOL HEALTH
Volume90
Issue number3
Early online date20 Dec 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

Keywords

  • mental health
  • refugee students
  • refugees
  • secondary teachers

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