Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed the first positive psychology-based intervention program for young refugees. The program, called Strengths for the Journey, published in Development and Psychopathology journal, evaluated for a period of seven days 72 children aged 7 to 14 years-old residing in the refugee camps of the Greek island, Lesvos. Most of the refugee children that were evaluated come from Syria and Afghanistan.
"The intervention was developed in direct response to needs highlighted by NGOs working with children living in refugee camps in Lesvos. It is built on a group-based, interactive, non-clinical approach and was developed to target areas which were identified as being important to the well-being and resilience of child refugees in this environment" according to the researchers.
Due to a limited access to educational and mental health services, the children need an improvement in their psychological well-being and resilience. Therefore, the Strengths for the Journey program's goal is to build positive psychological resources for children, including optimistic thinking, positive emotions, nature connectedness, character strengths, and mindfulness.
The results of the research showed a boost in optimism and reduced affective symptoms associated with the environmental changes that refugee children tend to experience. "The key finding of the study is that the Strengths for the Journey intervention seems to be quite effective." "Our results suggest that short, inexpensive positive psychology interventions such as Strengths for the Journey can lead to real improvements in refugee children’s mental health and wellbeing, even when those children are experiencing the many challenges of living in a refugee camp," explained the researchers.
As positive results were achieved, additional interventions will now be replicated in more refugee camps, including the ones outside Southeast Europe.