Mental Health Of Displaced Syrians During Covid-19 – Developing Ethical Methods, Concepts And Processes

  • Calia, C. (Invited speaker)
  • Boden, L. (Invited speaker)
  • Joseph Burke (Invited speaker)
  • Shahar Abdullateef (Invited speaker)
  • Maria Azar (Invited speaker)
  • Joy Abi Habib (Invited speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


From the Field is a multidisciplinary, global research collaboration seeking to explore the impact of Covid-19 on the lives and livelihoods of Syrians living in Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan, Syria and Turkey using bespoke remote ethnographic approaches. Local researchers, the University of Edinburgh and the NGO Cara co-created and deployed 100 questionnaire surveys using accessible technologies. The research aimed to observe the mental health of respondents facing enormous pressures and diminishing supports in their day-to-day lives. The surveys disseminated including in part the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (Clarke, et al., 2011) and the Food Security Coping Strategies Index (Maxwell, Watkins, Wheeler & Collins, 2003). These local researchers also acted as key respondents to help navigate Syrian idioms of distress and provide qualitative feedback on their own experience of the research process. The mean mental wellbeing score of the sample was 24.58 (SD= 4.25; Min= 14.08, Max= 35) with women’s wellbeing (n=25, M=22.83, SD=3.36) lower than men’s (n=75, M=25.17, SD=4.37); t(98)=2.44, p=.016. Notably, greater food insecurity was correlated with lower wellbeing (rs(100)= - .255, p=.01), as were lower meal frequency (t(96)= -2.52, p= .013) and reduced food intake (t(98) 3.32, p= .001). Qualitative data further illuminated the interconnections between psychosocial wellbeing and food security, expanding on the context within which Syrians are experiencing Covid-19 through various aspects of their daily lives. However, as important to the research project was its design and implementation since we applied an inclusive participatory approach throughout. Recognising the critical importance of the local context – both ‘home’ and ‘displacement’ - to the presentation of mental distress for these Syrians, it was imperative to establish a space within which collaborators could work with respect of each other’s experiences and multidisciplinary knowledge to ensure that ethical reflections were embedded within the project’s collaborative practice. Our work suggests that culturally-attuned, locally-driven mental health research is essential to a positive conceptualisation of mental health conditions and necessary if we are to understand prevalence of common mental health conditions. Not only is it a prerequisite to building a sufficient level of trust between researcher and respondent but it is also necessary if the meaning of responses are to be properly interpreted.
Period30 Nov 2021
Event titleGlobal Forum on Bioethics in Research : Ethical issues arising in research with people with mental health conditions
Event typeConference
LocationToronto, CanadaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • global ethics
  • Mental health
  • Covid-19
  • Syrians