SALaMA study protocol: a mixed methods study to explore mental health and psychosocial support for conflict-affected youth in Detroit, Michigan

Stark, Lindsay; Robinson, Mackenzie V.; Seff, Ilana; Hassan, Wafa; Allaf, Carine

Families resettling to the U.S. from conflict-affected countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) face countless challenges. These families must cope with experiences of armed conflict and forced migration while also assimilating to a new society. According to the ‘immigrant paradox,’ time spent in a new country can compound the effects of migration and assimilation challenges and lead to deteriorated mental health. This study aims to assess the psychosocial wellbeing of MENA-born or first-generation adolescents attending school in the Detroit metropolitan area (DMA) to understand how schools, families, and communities play a role in supporting these adolescents’ wellbeing.

The quantitative component of this mixed methods study will involve a self-administered survey with a sample of students whose responses will be linked to academic records and behavioral assessments. The survey will utilize validated instruments to measure depressive and anxiety symptoms (Hopkins Symptom Checklist-37A), hope (Children’s Hope Scale), resilience (Child and Youth Resilience Measure-12), externalizing and prosocial behavior (Hopkins Symptom Checklist-37A, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), school belonging (Psychological Sense of School Membership), and peer relationships (Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support). Differences in outcomes will be analyzed across two strata: students born in the MENA region and first-generation students whose parents immigrated to the US from the MENA region. The qualitative component will involve semi-structured key informant interviews with parents, school administrators, educators, and mental health providers, and focus group discussions (FGDs) with a purposive sample of adolescents born – or whose parents were born - in the MENA region. The FGDs will include a participatory ranking activity where participants will be asked to free-list and rank ideas about how schools can better support students like them. Thematic content analysis will be conducted to identify common themes.

This study will contribute evidence about the wellbeing of adolescents who come from – or whose parents come from - conflict-affected countries currently living in the U.S. Findings can be used to inform program and policy development to enable schools and their community partners to serve this population more effectively.

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BMC Public Health

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Published Here
December 20, 2022


Mental health, Psychosocial support, Youth, Acculturation, Education, Refugees, Immigrants, Middle East, MENA, Immigrant paradox