Evidence for suicide prevention strategies with populations in displacement : a systematic review

Little is known about effective strategies to reduce rates of suicide among refugees and other displaced populations. This review aims to synthesise and assess the evidence base for suicide prevention and response programmes in refugee settings. We conducted a systematic review from peer-reviewed literature databases (five databases) and grey literature sources of literature published prior to November 27, 2017. We identified eight records (six peer-reviewed articles and two grey literature reports) that met our inclusion criteria. None of the eight records provided conclusive evidence of effectiveness.


Five records had an unclear level of evidence and three records were potentially promising or promising. Most of the studies reviewed utilised multiple synergistic strategies. The most rigorous study showed the effectiveness of Brief Intervention and Contact and Safety planning. There is limited evidence of the effectiveness of other suicide prevention strategies for these groups. Future studies should attempt to better understand the impact of suicide prevention strategies, and explicitly unpack the individual and synergistic effects of multiple-strategies on suicide-related outcomes. Evidence from this review supports the use of Brief Intervention and Contact type interventions, but more research is needed to replicate findings particularly among populations in displacement.


Key implications for practice

  • Despite lack of evidence for displaced populations, multitiered and public health approaches to suicide seem most promising.
  • Simple scalable interventions based on brief caring contacts are feasible and effective.
  • Strong evaluations of suicide prevention efforts are needed to better inform practice.
Emily E. Haroz, Ellie Decker, Catherine Lee, Paul Bolton, Paul Spiegel & Peter Ventevogel | 2020
In: Intervention, the Journal of Mental Health & Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas ; ISSN : 1571-8883 | 18 | 1 | January-June | 37-44
Open Access
Displaced Persons, Displacement, Literature Review, Migrants, Prevention, Refugees, Suicidality, Systematic Review