The relation between traumatic experiences and psychological vulnerability

(Photo by Marcos Cola – educadormarcossv at

Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN)

Focus Summary

Due to many traumatic events occurring during refugees travel we focused on how the number and the quality of the affect refugees metal health. Data from two refugee cohorts were presented, one from 2014 and the other form 2017. The results suggest that the number of different traumatic experiences during travel is an important predictor of one’s mental health but more importantly the quality of those events have a significant predictive power for the development of PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Key Insights

  • Trauma in the country of origin is important for one’s mental health, but transit trauma may sometimes be more important and more severe
  • If we wish to protect ones mental health than we have to work together to ensure safe and secure passage for refugees in order to protect their mental health form further damage
  • A single traumatic event during travel such as separation from the family can trigger severe mental health problems
  • It is important to acknowledge and work towards prevention of trauma during travel for refugees

Key take-outs from the ISHHR 2017 Conference (industry feedback, networking, peer presentations)

It was highly useful to receive feedback from colleagues working in different contexts, and trying to jointly re-define the way we perceive the effect of trauma in different stages of refugee’s journey.

Future goals — what’s next?

Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN), as an implementing partner of UNHCR Serbia, will continue to deliver high-quality mental health care to refugees in Serbia, but the focus will shift from psychological first aid to longterm mental health care. PIN strongly advocates for mental health screening of refugees which will be implemented in a systematic manner in order to identify all those that need additional support. We hope to achieve the implementation of a comprehensive and inclusive system for mental-health care for all in next 3 years with the support and cooperation of National Public Health Institute and UNHCR Serbia.

How can local / national / international media better assist in bringing the vital issues discussed at ISHHR 2017 to light, and further encourage real, positive change and understanding?

More media emphasis should be put on violation of human rights of refugees and asylum seekers during the travel, which is the main cause of mental health difficulties in many refugees.