Addressing health disparities in the mental health of refugee children and adolescents through community-based participatory research: a study in 2 communities

Am J Public Health. 2015 Jul;105 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):S475-82. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302504. Epub 2015 Apr 23.


Objectives: We sought to understand the problems, strengths, and help-seeking behaviors of Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugees and determine local expressions of mental health problems among youths in both communities.

Methods: We used qualitative research methods to develop community needs assessments and identify local terms for child mental health problems among Somali Bantu and Bhutanese refugees in Greater Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts, between 2011 and 2014. A total of 56 Somali Bantu and 93 Bhutanese refugees participated in free list and key informant interviews.

Results: Financial and language barriers impeded the abilities of families to assist youths who were struggling academically and socially. Participants identified resources both within and outside the refugee community to help with these problems. Both communities identified areas of distress corresponding to Western concepts of conduct disorders, depression, and anxiety.

Conclusions: There are numerous challenges faced by Somali Bantu and Bhutanese youths, as well as strengths and resources that promote resilience. Future steps include using culturally informed methods for identifying those in need of services and developing community-based prevention programs.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bhutan / ethnology
  • Child
  • Community-Based Participatory Research*
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology*
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Somalia / ethnology