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Biological Psychiatry in Displaced Populations: What We Know, and What We Need to Begin to Learn

      ABSTRACT

      Conflict and climate change continue to displace millions of people, who experience unique trauma and stressors as they resettle in host countries. Both children and adults who are forcibly displaced, or choose to migrate, experience posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions at higher rates than the general population. This may be attributed to severe, cumulative stress and trauma (largely interpersonal traumas); discrimination and harassment in host countries; and structural barriers to accessing and addressing mental health concerns, including clinician availability, language barriers, cultural differences, geographic accessibility, health care access, and stigma. Despite high exposure to and clinical impact of such experiences, and despite representing 1% of the world population, forcibly displaced people are underrepresented in neuroscientific research. The availability of such literature and research findings is significant in understanding the unique genetic and cultural aspects of trauma- and stress-related mental health, advocacy, reducing stigma, informing prevention, and treatment. The present work aimed to explore how the field of neuroscience can address mental health equity for individuals who have been uprooted in relation to land, with a focus on refugee populations. We offer practical suggestions on how to improve research in this area and narrow the gap in knowledge.

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