Mental health screening among newly arrived refugees seeking routine obstetric and gynecologic care

Crista Johnson, Jennifer Allen, Jeanne F. Nizigiyimana, Glenda Ramirez, Michael Hollifield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression are common mental health disorders in the refugee population. High rates of violence, trauma, and PTSD among refugee women remain unaddressed. The process of implementing a mental health screening tool among multiethnic, newly arrived refugee women receiving routine obstetric and gynecologic care in a dedicated refugee women's health clinic is described. The Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15) is a culturally responsive, efficient, validated screening instrument that detects symptoms of emotional distress across diverse refugee populations and languages. An interdisciplinary community partnership was established with a local behavioral health services agency to facilitate the referral of women scoring positive on the RHS-15. Staff and provider training sessions, as well as the incorporation of bicultural, multilingual cultural health navigators, greatly facilitated linguistically appropriate care coordination for refugee women in a culturally sensitive manner. Twenty-six (23.2%) of the 112 women who completed the RHS-15 scored positive, of which 14 (53.8%) were Iraqi, 1 (3.8%) was Burmese, and 3 (11.5%) were Somali. Among these 26 women, 8 (30.8%) are actively receiving mental health services and 5 (19.2%) have appointments scheduled. However, 13 (50%) are not enrolled in mental health care because of either declining services (46.2%) or a lack of insurance (53.8%). Screening for mental disorders among refugee women will promote greater awareness and identify those individuals who would benefit from further mental health evaluation and treatment. Sustainable interdisciplinary models of care are necessary to promote health education, dispel myths, and reduce the stigma of mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-476
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Services
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Community-based participatory research
  • Refugee health screener (RHS-15)
  • Refugee women
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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