Reaching young refugees and migrants

Digital mental health and psychosocial support through Here4U

Two students on their phones.
UNICEF/De Luigi VII Photo/2018

Highlights

Migrant and refugee boys and girls are exposed to violence, abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking throughout their journeys.  Access to mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) is critical in helping them to overcome deeply distressing experiences. However, support of this kind often remains out of reach, resulting in a deterioration of their wellbeing and an increase invulnerabilities and pre-existing inequalities.

To address this, in 2020 UNICEF launched Here4U, a digital remote mental health and psycho-social support service embedded within the existing U-Report On The Move platform. The service is delivered in collaboration with partners ARCI and Approdi.

Remote MHPSS is an innovative approach with several opportunities and promising features. The results of the project - including goals, challenges and lessons learned - have been documented and collected into a report for its replicability.

It has found that emotional suffering and related symptoms, including physical and cognitive effects, can be intensified by environmental factors and barriers faced by migrant and refugee children. Difficulties in accessing support including mental health care services and legal procedures can lead to sleep problems, concentration issues, emotional outbursts, isolation, and loss of self-trust, resulting in significant psychosocial distress. Here4U – accessible through multiple digital channels – gives young migrants and refugees in Italy the opportunity to actively engage and regain confidence, self-trust and a sense of belonging to a community, strengthening their resilience and psychosocial wellbeing.

 

The documentation presented here highlights the strengths of the Here4U project, the multidisciplinary composition of its team, the cultural and linguistic mediation, the timely activation of referral, the access to youth-friendly and gender sensitive information.

As of December 2022, Here4U has reached over 1,600 young migrants and refugees with tailored support and reached more than 15,000 people online with raising awareness material published on Instagram and Facebook.

The multidisciplinary approach is fundamental to effectively respond to the many needs of boys and girls. This includes cultural and linguistic mediation to facilitate a smoother communication and is particularly valuable to help professionals in understanding beliefs, sets of values, social norms, socio-cultural conventions, assumptions and culture-specific interpretations and expressions that may otherwise be likely misunderstood or not properly caught. The activation of referrals is a central part of the remote MHPSS intervention, as well as an integrated case management approach.

The report shows how digital MHPSS strategy, including both sensitisation and service delivery, requires a dynamic approach and regular adjustment and shaping  to effectively address the evolving needs of migrant and refugee adolescents and youth. It involves a continued assessment of their desires, interests, values, visions, and challenges, and an analysis of external variables such as the political and social factors surrounding their lives.

U-Report On The Move is using various tools to create awareness among adolescents, young refugees and migrants, including livechats, podcasts and cards.

Author(s)
UNICEF
Publication date
Languages
English

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