Adversity and resilience amongst resettling Western Australian paediatric refugees.


AIM: Cumulative adverse childhood experiences have long-term consequences and may manifest within and influence health, educational and psychosocial domains. The Princess Margaret Hospital Refugee Health Service (RHS) undertakes multidisciplinary screening of refugee children <16 years, allowing standardised identification of negative childhood experiences. Addition of the extended Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) in 2014 aimed to augment psychological assessment of this cohort. METHODS: An audit of prospectively collected standardised RHS proformas, health records and initial and 6-month follow-up SDQs for new patients aged 2-16 years between August 2014 and January 2016 was undertaken. Wider refugee adverse childhood experiences (R-ACE) were also captured. RESULTS: Initial SDQ data were obtained from 204 patients (mean age 9.2 +/- SD 4.4 years) with 143 follow-up SDQs available. One third (37.3%) had at least one psychological symptom identified based on initial screening proforma. Multiple R-ACE were disclosed with 126 of 201 (62.7%) experiencing >/=3. African ethnicity, age >10 years, separation anxiety on initial proforma and no formal parental education were associated with higher R-ACE. Initial SDQ results varied with age/ethnicity; however, peer problem scores were consistently elevated. Total difficulty SDQ scores did not capture psychopathology at expected frequencies. Improvement in follow-up SDQ results were appreciated for children aged 4-10 years. Most patients (80.2%) disclosed improvement in health status following RHS involvement. CONCLUSIONS: Refugee children have complex backgrounds with exposure to multiple traumatic events. Comprehensive standardised health and psychological screening is recommended to target intervention. Further validation of culturally age-appropriate mental health screening tools in this diverse population is required.