STRENGTHS : Scaling Up Psychological Interventions with Syrian Refugees

In the past seven years, over five million people have fled the war in Syria to countries across the Middle East and Europe. Due to the war and their forced displacement, Syrian refugees experience depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The influx of large numbers of refugees poses a significant challenge to health systems in Europe and in Syria’s neighbouring countries. Across the Middle East, there are not enough trained specialists to provide mental health interventions. In Europe the lack of Arabic speaking mental health care professionals limits access to mental health services.

War Trauma Foundation helps to address these challenges in the STRENGTHS programme. This programme aims to scale up psychological interventions with Syrian refugees. Working together with 15 non-governmental and scientific organisations we are researching and implementing a new set of scalable psychological interventions developed by the World Health Organization.

Scalable interventions are ideal for community-based health care settings and will benefit the reach and uptake of effective mental health care for Syrian refugees in countries around Syria (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt), and in Europe (Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden).

Problem Management Plus

Amongst these interventions are Problem Management Plus (PM+) programmes for use in humanitarian and low-resource settings. These are short programmes that can be delivered by non-professional helpers after training. PM+ programmes are transdiagnostic, which means that they do not target a single mental health issue, but instead a more generic set of symptoms of common mental disorders. They are based on evidence-based cognitive behavioural and problem solving techniques. During five sessions of 90 minutes each, clients are taught stress management, problem solving, behavioural activation and skills to strengthen social support.

Several formats and delivery modes of the PM+ programmes are used, such as:

  • PM+ Individual,
  • PM+ Group;
  • Step by Step, e-mental health programme for adults (in development),
  • Helping Young Adolescents Cope (in development).

For more details visit the website of STRENGTHS:

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme Societal Challenges under Grant Agreement No 733337.