People who are forcibly displaced are forced to flee by serious threats to fundamental human rights, caused by factors such as persecution, armed conflict, and indiscriminate violence. Contemporary drivers of forced displacement are increasingly complex and interrelated. They include population growth, food insecurity, and water scarcity, at times compounded and multiplied by the effects of climate change. A refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,” according to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are people who have not crossed an international border but were forced to move to a different region than the one they call home within their own country. People who cannot return home without serious risk to their human rights have specific needs.
Forced displacement, both within a country and to other countries, is a major life event that abruptly changes environmental living conditions, such as social networks, language, and cultural environment of the displaced populations. The changes in environmental living conditions and disruptions in life challenge both the individual and the families of the displaced persons. Both types of forced displacement challenge adaptational mechanisms of individuals and families. Accordingly, the challenges can contribute to changes in mental health and mental disorders. However, estimates of mental health, mental disorders, and mental health determinants vary across and between forcibly displaced persons. This heterogeneity in estimates is associated with differences between refugee groups and with methodological difficulties in assessing refugees’ mental health. Instruments to assess mental health need to be culture-grounded and gender-sensitive to capture the scope and extent of refugees’ mental health and mental disorders. Based on reliable and valid instrument needs for assessing mental health and mental disorders, determinants can be identified and intervention can be developed and evaluated.