Education

Curtin hopes to help traumatised refugees

NIKI COMPARTI

A Curtin research program is helping war-traumatised refugees in Perth schools, after finding government programs are inadequate.

Six high schools and four primary schools in the metropolitan area are involved in the trial program which will run for about 10 weeks.

The free trial teaches students in small groups adaptive coping strategies and how to reduce symptoms of trauma.

Curtin’s school of psychology and speech pathology associate professor Clare Roberts said the mental well-being of young refugees is an area of unmet need.

“The number of refugees and asylum seekers is increasing worldwide, and in Australia 44 per cent of them are below the age of 18 years,” she said.

“Data indicates refugees and asylum seekers are not receiving adequate treatment to overcome the impact of torture or trauma experiences.

REFUGEE HELP: Professor Clare Roberts worries about inadequate treatment for refugeees.

“The specialist mental health services here are overloaded and cannot provide for the scale of demand for long-term treatment.”

Professor Roberts said relying on students seeking assistance or someone recognising a problem meant only the severely traumatised got help.

“Many can benefit from this program and learn how to cope before their situation escalates,” she said.

“Research has found young people who are traumatised risk developing other mental disorders, like depression and anxiety disorder, so we hope to prevent this from happening.

“One-on-one therapy is good but the advantage of a group program such as this is it is cost-and-time effective.”

The trial is funded by a Healthways research grant but more money would be needed to expand the program to other schools.

Published in the Western Independent October 2010

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