STRENGTHS Project: Scaling Up Psychological Interventions with Syrian Refugees

Project

Millions of Syrian refugees have been affected psychologically by the Syrian conflict. The STRENGTHS project is training Syrian refugees to provide a mental-health intervention called Problem Management+ to fellow Syrian refugees.

Its aim is to help alleviate some of the psychological trauma suffered by those who have escaped the conflict, but paid a high psychological cost in the process.

The STRENGTHS project is helping Syrian refugees with non-critical cases of psychological trauma associated with conflict to return to regular levels of psychological function. PM+ is a tool that has been developed by the WHO to help people affected by conflict. It is a short programme that targets symptoms of common psychological disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety and stress). The STRENGTHS project will translate, adapt, test and implement the PM+ programmes Individual, Group, Early Adolescent Skills for Emotions (EASE) as well as an internet-delivered version.

But the project will go further than that.

It is not enough to know if an intervention works or not. The project’s partners are also looking at cost-effective implementation, and how to scale up PM+ in specific contexts. STRENGTHS will attempt to answer these questions in eight different countries hosting Syrian refugees in Europe (the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland) and neighboring Syria (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt).

Objectives

The project has five Objectives:

  • Translate and adapt the PM+ programmes and training materials. 
  • Test the effectiveness of the PM+ programmes. 
  • Determine the invested cost and effort of the specific PM+ interventions in different contexts. 
  • Outline necessary steps to integrate PM+ into the health systems of the participating countries. 
  • Disseminate the knowledge about the evidence-base for PM+ programmes and how to implement and sustain them. 

KIT and STRENGTHS

KIT’s work is based on the health systems part of the project, entitled “WP2” in the projects plan. In this work package, KIT works closely together with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). We are conducting rapid appraisals of the mental health systems of the eight project countries to identify pathways and access barriers to mental health and psychological care services. Additionally, KIT and LSHTM are researching how PM+ can be an integral part of existing health systems.

A full explanation of KIT and other partners’ involvement, alongside detailed coverage of the STRENGTHS, is available at the project’s website. For more information about the estimates of mental disorders in conflict settings, see the 2019 systematic review and meta-analysis from the World Health Organization.