Attempts to "forget": unaccompanied refugee adolescents' everyday experiences of psychosocial challenges and coping upon settlement

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Poor mental health is common amongst unaccompanied refugee adolescents and may have serious negative consequences for their successful settlement. This study aims to elucidate unaccompanied adolescents' experiences of psychosocial challenges and what they need to cope with this during their course of settlement in Denmark, particularly focussing on social support.


The study sample included six male unaccompanied refugee adolescents aged 17-18, living in two residential care facilities. Based on a triangulation of methods (i.e. participant observation, individual interviews and a focus group interview using photo-elicitation), a thematic analysis was conducted within the conceptual framework of stigma and a need for relatedness.


Several interwoven and on-going psychosocial challenges, including perceived stigma and loneliness combined with past traumatic experiences and uncertainties about the future, were experienced by the adolescents in this study. As opposed to experiencing emotional distress, stigma and loneliness, various activities of "forgetting", which involved a sense of momentary relief or bliss, a sense of "normalcy" and acceptance and/or a sense of relatedness, helped them to cope.

Practical implications

For psychosocial care services to respond to adolescents' mental health needs in an optimal way, the results suggest that activities and social support that are sufficiently adapted to individual needs should be the focal point in their daily lives.


The study offers insights into the needs of unaccompanied refugee adolescents in coping with the psychosocial challenges experienced in their daily lives.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Stigma, Coping, Social support, Relatedness, Unaccompanied refugee youths

ID: 260994571