2016 Undergraduate Awards

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Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne

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A systematic review of literature reporting on the prevalence of assessment measures, treatments, and biomarkers used in the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD in Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian refugees was undertaken. A search of medical, psychological, and sociological databases was conducted on all relevant literature published between January 2011 and March 2016. Seventeen manuscripts met the study inclusion criteria. Seven assessment measures were used in more than one study, four of which were clinically administered (Vivo checklist of war, detention, and torture; Clinically Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS); Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview; and Hamilton Depression Scale) and three of which were self-report measures (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ); Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 (HSCL-25); Post Migrational Living Difficulties (PMLD). Two studies reported on psychological treatment, both of which administered Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET); no other systematic psychological treatments were identified. Several biomarkers were investigated but only in a single study each, including MRI of lateral prefrontal regions, right inferior parietal cortex, and bilateral isthmus of the cingulate, EEG event-related potentials, hypercortisolemia, and elevated heart rate. Based on these findings, we advocate the use of the HTQ, HSCL-25 and PMLD to exclude PTSD non-cases, and the CAPS for diagnosis of PTSD in Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian refugees in Canada. We further suggest NET as the psychological treatment currently with the strongest evidence-base in this population. Finally, we advocate continued research into biomarkers as a means of improving and objectifying psychological assessment and treatment of PTSD in Canadian refugee populations.


Published in Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne. © 2016 Canadian Psychological Association

This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the CPA journal. It is not the copy of record.

An earlier version of this paper was Cisse Nakeyar's highly commended entry to the Undergraduate Awards competition.

Image: "Getting a check-up with the International Rescue Committee" by DFID. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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