Refugee Crisis and European Psychological Response


Gastvortrag von 


Prof. Dr. Dean Ajduković

Department of Psychology, University of Zagreb, Croatia

am Donnerstag,19.05.2016
Beginn: 16:45 Uhr
Ort: HS BIG 1, Hauptgebäude, Universitätsring 1, 1010-Wien


The current refugee movement into the EU created the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the forced migration due to the Yugoslav wars 25 years ago when almost 4 million people were uprooted. Mental health profession for the first time massively responded to psychosocial needs of refugees. The lecture we focus on how professional experiences from that time can be useful for the current refugee crisis regarding mental health and psychosocial response. It will also present innovative concepts of responding to the unique challenge related to extremely quick and massive movement of refugees through several European countries. Data show that refugee populations have high incidence of psychological trauma as a consequence of extremely adverse experiences both in the pre-flight and during the flight period. While in transit, the focus is on survival and reaching the targeted destination that should provide safety, rest and respire. However, once needs for physical safety, food and shelter are met, other needs emerge, while mental health, behavioral and functional problems become more apparent. At the same time refugees are expected to integrate in the host society and secure independent living, become self-sufficient and contribute to the national economy in the sometimes unwelcoming social environment. Research shows that one of the turning points that secures constructive life perspective of refugees is legalization of status and becoming able to build daily routines. Nevertheless, some of them remain psychologically and socially vulnerable to various risks, including political radicalization. The effective psychosocial support programs extend beyond reducing trauma symptoms and include several levels of interventions that are conductive to healing, which are illustrated by the "Pyramid of Psychosocial Interventions". Issues about professional stress and risk of job burnout among care providers working day after day with high number of refugees will be also addressed.



Zur Person

Professor Dean Ajduković is distinguished full professor of social psychology at the Department of Psychology, University of Zagreb, Croatia (since 1999). His research and teaching topics include psychological trauma and recovery; interethnic relations; post-conflict community social reconstruction; prevention of intimate partner violence; program evaluation; qualitative research methodology. He has extensive experience in providing services to distressed and traumatized individuals and communities. He serves as a reviewer for a number of international professional journals and is a member of editorial boards of European Journal of Psychotraumatology, Intervention and Social Psychiatry. He received Ph.D. in psychology from University of Zagreb (1983), was Fulbright Senior Scholar at UC Berkeley (1987/1988) and Visiting Professor at University of Denver (2007). He was principal or co-principal investigator in over 20 national, regional and international research projects, including FP6, FP7 and other projects funded by the EU and the Croatian Ministry of Science. He chaired four European conferences. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters, edited 8 books and lectured in a number of centers of excellence in US and Europe. He provided consultation to major international organizations, including UNICEF, UNDP, UNPFA, WHO, Care International. He trained care-providers in several countries affected by upheaval. He is board member and past president of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ESTSS), past president of the Society for Psychological Assistance, and current president of the Croatian Society for Traumatic stress. He received the “Wolter de Loos Award for Contribution to European Psychotraumatology” (2011) and several national awards for scientific contributions and for promotion of applied psychology.. Currently he is deputy chairperson of the Croatian Science Foundation and member of the Scientific Committee of the COST Association.


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