Waiting for Life to Begin, Wishing it Would End : Suicidal Ideation among Newly Arrived Refugees

Research indicates that subgroups of refugees may be at increased risk for suicidal ideation, but further knowledge on this topic is needed. This study aimed to assess both prevalence and factors associated with suicidal ideation among newly arrived refugees in Sweden. Assessing suicidal ideation was part of a larger project, aiming to develop a model for assessment and treatment of mental health problems among refugees. The included data were based on a cross-sectional survey among 510 asylum seekers and refugees, all under the care of the Swedish Migration Agency.


The project group visited 12 asylum accommodations and 9 other locations, asking potential participants to answer a survey with questions on mental health, suicidal ideation and quality of life. Data were analysed using logistic regression. Symptoms of depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder, low physical and psychological quality of life, and being of young age were all independently associated with suicidal ideation. This study points to the importance of identifying refugees with mental health problems and of providing them with adequate care. It also indicates the importance of assuring a decent quality of life at asylum accommodations, and it shows that the young may constitute an especially vulnerable group.


Key implications for practice


  • The association between mental health problems and suicidal ideation is as pertinent among refugees as in the general population.
  • The association between quality of life and increased suicidal ideation points to the importance of decent housing standards for individuals seeking asylum in western countries.
  • Refugees of young age may constitute an especially vulnerable group, and particular attention needs to be given to these individuals.
Anna Leiler, Elisabet Wasteson, Ingrid Zakrisson, Anna Bjärtå | 2021
In: Intervention: Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas | 19 | 2 | september | 215-223 | Diemen : ARQ International
Adults, Asylum Seekers, Epidemiology, Mental health, Migrants, Quality of Life, Refugees, Research, Suicidality