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American Psychiatric Association selects WSU Syrian refugee project for press briefing

April 21, 2017

Results from a research project on the impact of Syrian violence on refugee children and families, launched last year by the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, will be included in the press briefing portion of the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting May 20-24 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Few meeting presentations are selected for the APA’s press briefing to the media. In addition, Professor Cynthia Arfken, Ph.D., who provides data analysis and data quality assurance for the WSU project, will give an oral presentation about the work at the meeting.

Dr. Arfken and study principal investigator Arash Javanbakht, M.D., an assistant professor, are part of the study team for the project “Risk and Resilience in Syrian Refugees.” Their efforts have been featured on The Boston Globe’s statnews.com and CNN’s “New Day Weekend” program.

Preliminary results of the ongoing study to determine the mental health impact and biological correlation of civil war trauma on Syrian refugees now living in the United States showed that 30 percent of adult refugees experience post-traumatic stress disorder and 50 percent experience depression.

In addition, 60 percent of Syrian children show signs of anxiety because of the trauma – very likely impacted by their mother’s PTSD, Dr. Javanbakht said.

The refugees had been in the U.S. for two to eight weeks at the time of their interviews with the researchers, who collected epidemiological, genetic, inflammation and stress data. The refugees were also asked to describe in a 10- to 30-minute interview any challenges they faced because of the civil war; their circumstances before, during and after fleeing their home country; the meaning of this experience for them; their mental and physical health; family dynamics and more.

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