Caring for Muslim Refugees

  • Omar RedaEmail author
  • Sara Maklad
  • Rania Awaad


Migration, even to a safe destination, can be traumatic. Forced migration, especially following an armed conflict, can have a wide range of psychosocial and other negative health consequences.

It is true that most refugees and asylum-seekers adjust to their new communities after displacement, but some will have invisible wounds that can cause intrapsychic and interpersonal dysfunction and lead to trans-generational transmission of the traumatic impact.

This chapter examines the unique challenges facing refugees in general, with a specific focus on Muslim refugees. It also touches on the trauma that refugee youth go through and how it might affect their psyche.

Finally, the chapter introduces culturally sensitive ways for healthcare professionals to help them navigate these dynamics.


Refugees Asylum-seekers Trauma Forced migration Cultural sensitivity Muslim ban Islamophobia 


  1. 1.
    Redfield R, Linton R, Herskovits M. Memorandum on the study of acculturation. Am Anthropol. 1936;38:149–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Berry JW, Kim U, Minde T, Mok D. Comparative studies of acculturative stress. Int Migr Rev. 1987;21:491–51. 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Murphy HBM. Migration and the major mental disorders. In: Kantor M, editor. Mobility and mental health. Springfield: Thomas; 1965. p. 221–49.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fazel M, Wheeler J, Danesh J. Prevalence of serious mental disorder in 7000 refugees resettled in western countries. Lancet. 2005;365(9467):1309–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Steel Z, Chey T, Silove D, Marnane C, Bryant RA, van Ommeren M. Association of torture and other potentially traumatic events with mental health outcomes among populations exposed to mass conflict and displacement: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2009;302:537–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Stenmark H, Catani C, Neuner F, Elbert T, Holen A. Treating PTSD in refugees and asylum seekers within the general health care system. A randomized controlled multicenter study. Behav Res Ther. 2013;51(10):641–7. Scholar
  7. 7.
    Porter M, Haslam N. Predisplacement and postdisplacement factors associated with mental health of refugees and internally displaced persons: a meta-analysis. JAMA. 2005;294(5):602–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Sinnerbrink I, Silove D, Field A, Steel Z, Manicavasagar V. Compounding of premigration trauma and postmigration stress in asylum seekers. J Psychol. 1997;131:463–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Turner SW, Bowie C, Dunn G, Shapo L, Yule W. Mental health of Kosovan Albanian refugees in the UK. Br J Psychiatry. 2003;182:444–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Reda O. The war on terror: is there ever room for compassion. Am J Psychiatry. 2017;174(12):1144–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Awaad R, Reicherter D. Cultural perspectives in the context of western psychological mind-sets: the need for cultural sensitivity in the mental health of immigrant youth. In: Patel SG, Reicherter D, editors. Psychotherapy for immigrant youth. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing; 2016.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
  13. 13.
    Lambert JE, Alhassoon OM. Trauma-focused therapy for refugees: meta-analytic findings. J Couns Psychol. 2015;62:28–37. Scholar
  14. 14.
    Davidson GR, Murray KE, Schweitzer RD. Review of refugee mental health assessment: best practices and recommendations. J Pac Rim Psychol. 2010;4(1):72–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Weinstein CS, Fucetola R, Mollica R. Neuropsychological issues in the assessment of refugees and victims of mass violence. Neuropsychol Rev. 2001;11(3):131–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Oteo-Barkil A, et al. The tale of Syrian refugees. Am J Psychiatr. 2018;175(1):8–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
  18. 18.
    Amri S, Bemak F. Mental health help-seeking behaviors of Muslim immigrants in the United States: overcoming social stigma and cultural mistrust. J Muslim Ment Health. 2013;7(1):43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    The Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT).
  20. 20.
    Awaad R. A Muslim Graduate Student From Sudan Trapped by the Travel Ban. Am J Psychiatry. 2017;174(10):925–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Providence Health and ServicesPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Muslim Mental Health Lab and Wellness ProgramStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Khalil CenterUnion CityUSA
  4. 4.Muslim Mental Health Lab and Wellness Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations