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Improving the mental wellbeing of Arabic speaking refugees: an evaluation of a mental health promotion program

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posted on 2023-05-21, 08:59 authored by Slewa-Younan, S, McKenzie, M, Thomson, R, Smith, M, Mohammad, Y, Jon MondJon Mond


Refugee populations have particularly high rates of mental health problems, including Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. However, uptake of mental health care may be low even when severe depression and PTSD symptoms are present in individuals following resettlement. This is likely due, at least in part, to cultural influences on refugees’ knowledge and beliefs about mental health problems and their treatment. We sought to provide preliminary evidence for the effectiveness of a culturally tailored mental health promotion program for Arabic-speaking refugees.


A total of 33 Arabic-speaking refugees resettled in South Western Sydney were recruited and completed intervention which consisted of weekly three-hour sessions for 4 weeks delivered in Arabic. Key aspects of mental health literacy, help-seeking intentions and levels of general psychological distress were assessed, by means of a self-report survey, pre-intervention, (immediately) post-intervention and 3 months following intervention.


Of the 33 participants that completed the intervention, 31 completed the immediate post-intervention survey and 29 completed the 3 months follow-up survey. Improvements in most aspects of mental health literacy assessed were found immediately post-intervention and at follow-up, although only changes relating to stigmatising attitudes were statistically significant. Additionally, a statistically significant decrease in participants’ levels of general psychological distress was observed immediately following the intervention, and this decrease was sustained at follow-up.


While further research employing a more rigorous study design and larger sample size will be needed, results of this initial trial suggest that a culturally tailored mental health promotion program targeting key aspects of mental health literacy can improve the mental health of Arabic-speaking refugees resettled in a Western nation.


Publication title

BMC Psychiatry








School of Health Sciences


BioMed Central Ltd.

Place of publication

United Kingdom

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© 2020. The Authors. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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