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Integration and help-seeking among Syrian refugees

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Despite a seemingly higher need, refugees in Europe tend to underuse mental health services. In Norway, the general practitioner (GP) plays an important role as gatekeeper to specialist mental health services. Therefore, to better understand refugees’ underuse of mental health services, it is important to understand their willingness and ability to seek help from their general practitioner (GP) when experiencing mental health problems.

We employed a combined vignette and survey design to explore how the GP fits into the larger context of help-seeking preferences among a sample of Syrian refugees in Norway, and what they perceive to stand in the way of seeking help from the GP. We also examined how indicators of integration related to seeking help from the GP.

We found that participants were somewhat likely to seek help from the GP; however, seeking help from one’s relationship with Allah/God and one’s partner was preferred. Furthermore, while the GP was rated as a somewhat likely source of help, participants indicated an average of two barriers to seeking help from the GP, the most common being language barriers. Social ties to the majority population (“social integration”) and feelings of connectedness with Norway (“psychological integration”) were positively correlated with likelihood of seeking help from the GP.

Taken together, these findings suggest that Syrian refugees in this study considered the GP as a somewhat likely source of help if they were experiencing symptoms of depression. The findings furthermore suggest that participants’ ratings of the GP as a likely source of help is affected by the obstacles they perceive to stand in the way of seeking help from the GP, as well as social network in Norway and feelings of connectedness with Norway.  Addressing these barriers and promoting psychosocial integration with the host country may facilitate access and usage amongst refugees in need of MH services.