UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Funding awarded to explore the impact of displacement on adolescents’ mental health

23 March 2020

The Institute for Global Prosperity’s Hannah Sender is part of a new project ‘Understanding the impact of displacement on adolescents’ mental health: A cross-sector cross-country initiative’ which has been awarded funding by UCL Grand Challenges (Global Health).

Photo from Adolescent Lives project

By the end of 2018, 70.8 million people around the world had been forced from home by conflict and persecution, and over half of them were under 18 years old (UN, 2020). In addition to those displaced across international borders, there were 18.8 million new disaster-related internal displacements recorded at the end of 2017(Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre & Norwegian Refugee Council, 2018). More than 40% of those internally-displaced are under 18.

Supra-national and national policies have focused on the physical displacement of people from one place to another due to war and persecution and weather-related events. However, some academics and practitioners are calling for a more inclusive definition of displacement which reflects people’s experience of ‘the loss of the land and resources beneath [someone], a loss that leaves communities stranded in a place stripped of the very characteristics that made it inhabitable’ (Nixon, 2011: 7).Adolescents of all ages are significantly affected by events like displacement, and the social and physical environments they find themselves in. The humanitarian community continues to use 18 years old to define children from adults, and deliver programmes according to this distinction. However, ‘adolescence’ describes a developmental phase between 10-24 years old, problematically blurring the line between childhood and adulthood.

The project will include representatives from local and international NGOs, governmental organisations and academic institutions in a conversation about diverse understandings of displacement, adolescent mental health and will deliver a co-designed conceptual framework for displacement and mental health through a literature review and webinar.

This preliminary work has the capacity to drive supra-national and national policy-makers’ strategies in a direction which supports people who have experienced diverse forms of displacement.

The cross-sector partnership is overseen by a team from the Institute of Child Health (Professor Monica Lakhanpaul), Institute of Education (Dr Kelly Dickson and Dr Mukdarut Bangpan), Global Health (Dr Miriam Orcutt) and Hannah Sender (Institute for Global Prosperity and Development Planning Unit).

For more information, please email hannah.sender@ucl.ac.uk

Photo taken by a young woman called Samar in a photography workshop, as part of the Adolescent Lives project on displacement and socio-cultural determinants of adolescent mental health.