U.S. Fulbright Specialist Collaborates with Swiss on Migrants’ Health

U.S. clinical psychologist and Fulbright Specialist Adam Brown collaborates with the Inselspital in Bern to detect and treat mental health issues among refugees.

Clinical psychologist and Fulbright Specialist Adam Brown is collaborating with the Emergency Department at the University Hospital in Bern to detect and treat mental health issues among refugees. After a year of research and collaboration in Switzerland and the United States, we caught up with him to learn more about his experiences.

Adam Brown is collaborating with colleagues at the Inselspital to assess and improve the hospital’s emergency room’s ability to more rapidly detect and remedy mental health issues among refugees. Switzerland is home to the fourth most refugees per capita in Europe (around 8.5 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2015); due to the trauma of fleeing one’s country, refugees and migrants are particularly vulnerable to psychiatric disorders. When undetected, these psychiatric disorders can impair quality of life, hinder integration, and increase health care costs.

The project focuses on the emergency room as it is often the first point of contact for medical care for refugees, and Brown and his colleagues “believe that the emergency room is a critical place to educate, prevent, and treat mental health issues.” Using tablets and the assistance of translators, Brown and the team collect mental health data as patients are waiting to see a doctor in the emergency room. Brown states that their “research is shedding light on the nature of mental health issues across these communities.” Next steps for their work is the expansion of their study to other emergency rooms throughout Switzerland.

Through his research, Brown hopes that more people understand “the importance of developing sustainable mental health programs to support well-being for the millions of displaced individuals throughout the world” and that “countries remain committed to partnering with mental health researchers to help reduce and prevent long-term psychological distress.”

In order to foster “a climate of tolerance, acceptance, and openness in one’s community,” Brown encourages everyone “to educate themselves about the current issues and politics that motivate people to seek asylum, the challenging realities they endure throughout this process, and to consider donating time or resources to organizations seeking to support refugees.”

About Adam Brown:

Adam is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York, as well as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.  He is also a Fulbright Specialist, which is a State Department program that pairs highly qualified U.S. academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to exchange expertise.

Read our previous #AmericansInSwitzerland profile on Adam Brown here.