Trauma & Torture

  • The Vulnerability Screening Tool was developed by the Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST) for use by mental and primary health professionals, settlement and social service providers, private sponsors, and other community members who are supporting refugees on arrival in British Columbia. This document is not a diagnostic tool, but rather a screening tool for vulnerability. 

  • Landing and Settling: A Group Therapy Program for Refugees in British Columbia, by Kirby Huminuik, MA, RCC, PhD (Cand.), is designed to provide mental health practitioners with a structured, yet flexible approach to early intervention with refugee populations who have recently arrived in British Columbia.  

  • Istanbul Protocol from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Printable anatomical drawings for the documentation of torture and ill-treatment.

Guide to mental health work with refugees

Written by Bob Martin MD, Bridge Refugee Clinic, Vancouver BC  (July 6, 2011)
Reviewed/updated by Martina Scholtens MD (July 1, 2016)

A pragmatic guide to recognizing and treating the mental health concerns of refugees, including:

  • unique communication challenges, and how to deal with them
  • an approach to incorporating mental health work into other clinical work
  • a practical approach to pharmacotherapy
  • how to understand the stressors of the refugee process and the refugee claimant process
  • referral options and community resources

Access the guide by clicking the link below:

Mental health systems in refugee-producing countries

Written by Andrew Greaves, Connecticut College (BA May 2013)

The Access to Care, Institutions, and Culture of Mental Health

Access to mental health care is an uphill battle in many developing countries. The conditions that produce refugees, including civil strife and political oppression and persecution, are often indicators of governments and systems that are unwilling or unable to support its population’s health needs.

Mental health concerns, including PTSD, schizophrenia, and depression, all of which can be related to or exacerbated by poor and dangerous living conditions, are often the last health needs treated due to their internal nature; physical care for endemic and epidemic illnesses are normally prioritized.

Due to the widespread difficulties of access to mental health care in the developing world, it is unlikely that a government’s failure to address its population’s mental illness could serve as grounds for said individuals to claim and receive refuge in Canada, particularly in a climate of exclusionary Canadian migration policies. These reports can nonetheless be used to contextualize a refugee claimants’ experience, provide background for social workers and health professionals managing their cases, and help paint the picture of the troubled conditions from which claimants are fleeing.

Click on the following regions for information on mental health systems in specific countries: 

Refugee Mental Health Further Reading


  • Centre for Refugee Studies | York University
    A community of researchers dedicated to the well-being of people displaced by violence, persecution, human rights abuses, and environmental degradation, the Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) is responding through innovative research, education and policy engagement. 

  • Trauma and Global Health Program | McGill University
    A global health research initiative that stems from a partnership between the Douglas Institute - McGill University and research teams based in Guatemala, Nepal, Peru and Sri Lanka. Its purpose is to improve the mental health of civilians exposed to political violence and/or natural disasters, to foster psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery and to generate improved mental health policies and services in the participating countries. 
  • Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture
    A non-profit, founded by several Toronto doctors, lawyers and social service professionals, many of whom were associated with Amnesty International.  
  • The Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) 
    A multi-disciplinary program that has, over two decades, been pioneering the health and mental health care of refugees and civilians in areas of conflict/post-conflict and natural disasters. HPRT’s model, which focuses on the identification and treatment of extreme trauma (natural and human-made) through local indigenous healing systems, primary care, and community organizations, has been replicated throughout the world. 
  • The National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs (NCTTP) 
    A U.S. based network of programs whose purpose is to advance the knowledge, technical capacities and resources devoted to the care of torture survivors living in the United States and acts collectively to prevent torture worldwide. 
  • The Center for Victims of Torture
    A torture rehabilitation center in America's midwest whose healing, training, research and advocacy initiatives have global impact. They provide healing to torture survivors in Minnesota, Africa and the Middle East and train partners across the United States and in every region of the world.



  • The Refugee Mental Health Toolkit by CAMH

Original list above compiled by Mariana Martinez Vieyra - Provincial Mental Health Coordinator. 
Expanded by Martina Scholtens MD CCFP.