During the last years, the number of refugees around the world increased to about 22.5 million. The mental health of refugees, especially of unaccompanied minors (70% between the ages of 16 and 18 years) who have been exposed to traumatic events (e.g., war), is generally impaired with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Several studies revealed (1) a huge variation among the prevalence rates of these mental problems, and (2) that post-migration stressors (e.g., language barriers, cultural differences) might be at least as detrimental to mental health as the traumatic events in pre- and peri-flight. As psychotherapy is a limited resource that should be reserved for severe cases and as language trainings are often publicly offered for refugees, we recommend focusing on intercultural competence, emotion regulation, and goal setting and goal striving in primary support programs: Intercultural competence fosters adaptation by giving knowledge about cultural differences in values and norms. Emotion regulation regarding empathy, positive reappraisal, and cultural differences in emotion expression fosters both adaptation and mental health. Finally, supporting unaccompanied refugee minors in their goal setting and goal striving is necessary, as they carry many unrealistic wishes and unattainable goals, which can be threatening to their mental health. Building on these three psychological processes, we provide recommendations for primary support programs for unaccompanied refugee minors that are aged 16 to 18 years.
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