Forced Migration and Adolescent Mental Health: understanding the cultural determinants of mental health in a context of mass displacement

Funded by UCL Grand Challenges

Funded by UCL Grand Challenges

Forced Migration and Adolescent Mental Health: understanding the cultural determinants of mental health in a context of mass displacement, is a research project that involves RELIEF partner CatalyticAction and Dr Fouad M Fouad (AUB), PhD researcher Hannah Sender, Dr Delan Devakumar and Dr Miriam Orcutt from UCL Global Heath. It was awarded funding from the UCL Grand Challenges programme in March 2018, under the mega-theme "Adolescent Lives".


The war in Syria has led to approximately one million refugees fleeing to Lebanon, 56% of whom are children and adolescents. The conflict and displacement is likely to have a profound and lasting impact on their lives and health, and both the Lebanese Government and UNHCR have expressed serious concerns about creating a ‘lost generation’ of young people due to lack of support during important periods of intellectual and social development.

There is, however, a lack of understanding about how cultural factors affect mental health outcomes for adolescents, in particular in relation to displacement. Mental illness is common among displaced people. Displacement is linked to loss of resilience to stressful events, the adoption of harmful coping strategies, and retrenchment of damaging culturally-shaped expectations (such as early marriage and wage-earning). More needs to be done to understand the risk and protective factors for mental health and how to measure them to improve psychological resilience and vulnerability, both for displaced people and host communities.

‘Forced migration and mental adolescent health’ will engage with adolescents in Bar Elias, Lebanon to understand how displacement impacts on their mental health and wellbeing. Our team brings together experts in adolescent health (including mental health, communicable and non-communicable diseases), migration, social anthropology, epidemiology, qualitative methodologies and public engagement. It builds on the previous work of Dr Fouad, who has examined mental health of adolescent Syrian refugees in Bar Elias.

The team will explore issues of identity -including the adoption of multiple identities-, their interactions with friends and family, education and their living environment. They will conduct qualitative research and engage them using photography to understand the cultural determinants of their mental health in the context of mass displacement. To find out more about the project, please email Hannah Sender [].

Dr Delanjathan Devakumar (UCL Global Health) - Principal Investigator,

Principal Investigator

Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity)


Dr Fouad Mohamed Fouad (AUB Department of Epidemiology and Population Health)


Hannah Sender (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity)


Catalytic Action Charity

Project Partner