'This doctor, I not trust him, I'm not safe': the perceptions of mental health and services by unaccompanied refugee adolescents

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;61(2):129-36. doi: 10.1177/0020764014537236. Epub 2014 Jun 3.


Background: Unaccompanied refugee adolescents are a small but clinically significant group. This group is vulnerable with physical and psychiatric needs which are often not met. There are several barriers to providing care for this group, originating with the refugees but also due to service provision.

Aims: The aim of this research is to appreciate the views and perceptions that unaccompanied minors hold about mental health and services.

Method: Fifteen unaccompanied adolescents engaged with mental health services were interviewed, and thematic analysis was employed to explore relevant issues.

Discussion: Their views reflected a range of opinions on mental health and the treatments they received, but many held negative attitudes toward mental health and had a lack of trust in services. This could be explained by their descriptions of their experiences within their home country of psychiatric care, their experiences of being a refugee/asylum-seeker or cultural differences.

Conclusion: We argue it is important to engage this group in the development of policy and practice in child mental health, and in developing services.

Keywords: Refugee adolescents; mental health; perceptions; qualitative; stigma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Mental Health Services
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Perception
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Social Stigma
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trust*
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology*