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Digital Mental Health for Syrian Refugees

Mental Health Needs in the Middle East

War, geopolitical instability, and natural disasters have contributed to enormous unmet mental health needs in the Middle East and North Africa.

Our group is working with international NGOs, government officials, policymakers, and local stakeholders to evaluate the state of available mental health care, clinical and technological capacities, and potential for development and deployment of digital mental health interventions in the region.   



Jordan hosts one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees in the world. We surveyed 209 (141 refugees) adults and youth in urban, rural, and refugee camp settings. Survey results indicated that mobile device ownership was lower among refugees than non-refugees (71 % vs. 100 %, respectively). Refugee phone users had less access to smartphones than non-refugees (75 % vs. 96 %, respectively). Refugees and non-refugees reported using mobile devices for diverse activities including calling (83 % vs. 100 %, respectively), texting (28 % vs. 87 %, respectively) social media (45 % vs. 94 %, respectively), watching videos (23 % vs. 90 %, respectively), and studying (34 % vs. 72 %, respectively). Most respondents had reliable access to electricity (75 % vs. 99 %, respectively) and to mobile-cellular service (67 % vs. 97 %, respectively). Both groups identified anger, anxiety, depression, traumatic memories, and eating problems as the most common mental health problems in their communities. Approximately half of refugees (44 %) and non-refugees (50 %) reported that their communities had insufficient or no access to mental health resources. Most refugees (78 %) and non-refugee (87 %) believed that using mobile devices to provide support for people with mental health conditions would be helpful. Full Article


West Bank

Palestinians in the West Bank are at heightened risk for mental health problems. Limited availability of clinicians and a host of geopolitical, topographical, and infrastructural challenges create significant regional barriers to clinic-based care. We surveyed 272 Palestinian adults in urban, rural, and refugee camp settings. Most participants (93.4%) reported owning mobile phones. The penetration of mobile devices was high across all study sites. Males and females did not differ in their access to this resource. Among mobile phone owners, 79.9% had smartphones, 32.2% had basic mobile phones, and 12.2% owned both. Respondents reported having reliable access to electricity (99.6%) and Wi-Fi (80.9%). Almost all mobile phone owners (99.6%) reported using social media such as Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter. Two-thirds of participants reported that over half of the people in their communities struggled with depression, posttraumatic stress, or auditory hallucinations. Most participants indicated that they would personally be interested in mHealth for Mental Health options such as bi-directional texting with clinicians (68.8%), smartphone applications (66.5%), unidirectional support texts (64.7%), or web-based interventions (64.0%). Full Article


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