The extended crisis in Syria coupled with the ongoing stressors related to displacement, have had a significant impact on the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of Syrian refugees as well as Jordanian residents.
This study aimed at exploring if any changes or trends could be identified within the last five years, regarding the level and type of perceived distress, main strategies of help-seeking behavior and common coping mechanisms among Jordanians and Syrians. In order to do so, different factors were taken into considerations: the perceived symptoms of severe distress and impaired functioning, help-seeking behaviors, the most common coping mechanisms, the barriers to access mental health services, assess the needed services among Syrian refugees and Jordanians within Jordan, and assess how they have changed over the last five years.
In regards to the overall findings of this assessment, the assessment noted higher rates of symptoms of mental distress and functional impairment among urban refugees compared to those reported in earlier assessments. Particularly:
• Overall, the proportion of participants with distress was 43.4%; 38.9% among the host population, 57.0% among refugees in urban communities, and 23.0% among refugees in camp (p <0.005). More than half of respondents who perceived to be experiencing distress in all communities reported seeking help from a friend (56.4%), followed by 47.2% and 41.1% of respondents who reported seeking help from family members, and a spouse, respectively.
• The primary barriers to seeking help identified by this paper were: feelings of helplessness, lack of financial means, unawareness and poor recognition of mental health problems, cost of treatment, the need for privacy, and stigma.
• Overall, this assessment found that seeking comfort in faith and spiritual beliefs was the most common coping mechanism reported by those who were perceived to be experiencing distress; described here as a status of a person’s internal life that are commonly deemed to be troubling, confusing and leading to sufferance.
• In regards to the most needed and favored services, respondent expressed the need for: affordable mental health care (27.5%), affordable medications (26.1%), and transportation to access services (24.4%).
Based on the findings of this study, the following recommendations can be considered relevant for both Syrian refugees and the Jordanian host population:
1- Expand and implement additional outreach activities to provide psychosocial support and mental health services;
2- Train community and social workers adequately and structurally, and expand their roles to provide different services; such as, providing vital education on available healthcare options, in order to increase public awareness on the availability of mental health services and institutions, and providing culturally appropriate health education on topics related to mental health and psychosocial needs;
3- Minimize stigma associated with MHPSS by incorporating mental health services into broad-based community settings, such as schools, primary prevention or services at primary health care level;
4- Implement school-based interventions, integrate psychosocial support activities into the education sector, and build the capacity of teachers and school counselors to provide psychosocial support to schoolchildren;
5- At schools and among youth institutions more specifically, promote activities that promote social cohesion and social support such as increasing opportunities for extra-curricular activities, which helps to occupy young people in healthy activities, developing critical thinking skills and fostering a positive whole school ethos, and providing equal access to educational opportunities for students from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds;
6- Increase the number, and, build the capacity of non-specialized health workers to be able to deliver low-intensity psychological intervention for mild to moderate mental disorders; and increase the capacity-building opportunity of evidence-based scalable psychological intervention.