Contributors to Screening Positive for Mental Illness in Lebanon's Shatila Palestinian Refugee Camp

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Abstract

This study evaluates contributors to the mental health status of Palestinians, Syrians, and nonrefugee residents of Lebanon's Shatila Refugee Camp. Primary health care clinic patients in Shatila were screened for mental illness between 2012 and 2013 using the K6, the Primary Care Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the Modified Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview. Logistic regressions enabled the consideration of potential contributors to participants' positive mental illness screens. The sample (n = 254) included 63.4% Palestinians, 18.5% Syrians, and 18.1% nonrefugees. People lived in the camp for 21.1 years (±17), 63% had stable housing and 78% had war event exposure. Mental illness prevalence was 51.6% in total (34.8% serious mental illness [SMI] alone, 5.1% PTSD alone, 11.4% comorbid SMI/PTSD, and 0.08% comorbid psychotic spectrum disorder SMI/PTSD). For Palestinians and nonrefugees, respectively, stable housing accounted for a 79% and a 98% reduction in positive SMI screen risk. For Syrians, access to paid employment accounted for a 66% risk reduction. Stable living situations and economically productive employment for those trapped in a refugee situation, even in the face of war trauma, seem most important for ensuring reduced mental disorder risk.

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