Psychosocial Wellbeing, Integration and Protection Cluster TEST PAGE

IGHD promotes research embodying critical thinking, practice engagement and principles of social justice to address the health and development of vulnerable and marginalised populations globally. Our research is focused through interdisciplinary clusters that draw together academic staff, research students and external partners in addressing major issues on which we aspire towards global thought leadership. 

The focus of work in the area of psychosocial wellbeing, protection and integration is marked by strong engagement with a broad range of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental actors. Projects range from strengthening humanitarian response for children and youth in contexts of conflict to strategies for supporting local integration for displaced populations. Our research is multi-disciplinary, uses mixed methods and is often characterised by participatory approaches. In recent years we have been developing and using a new tool to capture information about social networks.

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Research projects


IGHD is working in partnership with Scottish Refugee Council, Bridges Programmes and Workers’ Educational Association to explore the role of social connections in the integration of recently recognised refugees living in Scotland.  This two-year research project, funded by the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Immigration Fund (AMIF) will test and refine IGHD’s Social Connections Mapping Tool in a practice context.  In addition, the team will work with a refugee Community Advisory Board to design, deliver and disseminate findings from a mixed methods qualitative study rooted in the experiences of New Scots and longer-term residents living in a number of Glasgow neighbourhoods. 

Staff: Helen BaillotEmmaleena Käkelä, Leyla KerlaffArek DakessianAlison Strang 


Healing Neighbourhoods

IGHD is conducting a review of the Healing Neighbourhoods Project (HNP) on behalf of Freedom from Torture (FFT). FFT is coming to the end of trialling an innovative project, ‘Healing Neighbourhoods’, combining individual psychotherapy with community worker support to build refugee and asylum seekers’ social connections in Glasgow. The study explores the perceived impact on project members and external stakeholders against seven key outcomes, using interview data and survey data from the QMU Social Connections Mapping Tool. 

Staff: Leyla Kerlaff and Alison Strang (with previous support from Rebecca Horn and Nicole Vidal) 

Full report available on request via IGHD Email Address

COVID Social Isolation CSO work (external PDF)

This study, which is nearing completion, set out to better understand the impact of sudden-onset isolation, brought on by measures to combat COVID-19, on neglected population groups – specifically Scotland’s refugees and asylum seekers. We gathered information on the extent and quality of refugees’ social networks during COVID-19 restrictions, to explore the relationship between sudden-onset isolation and loneliness, mental health and wellbeing. 

Staff: Alison Strang, Olivia Sagan, Nicole Vidal (with previous support from Maleeka Salih and Cameron Smith)  

Full report available on request via IGHD Email Address


DiSoCo is a GCRF Protracted Displacement project led by the University of Edinburgh that aims to help Somali and Congolese displaced people to access appropriate healthcare for chronic mental health conditions associated with protracted displacement, conflict, and sexual and gender-based violence. Our team is supporting research teams in Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and South Africa to explore the support networks of displaced Somalis and Congolese in these countries. 

Staff: Alison Strang, Arek Dakessian, Oonagh O’Brien 

Family Reunion and Integration Service

Using a research model developed by IGHD researchers, this project aims to better understand the role of social networks in integration. It has explored the social connections amongst and between refugee families and their communities over time, and shown how these connections influence integration into a new location. Within the context of the FRIS extension period we aim to test the effectiveness of the Social Connections Mapping Tool (SCMT) questionnaire and embed it into practitioners’ work with recently recognised and reunited refugee families in the UK. The aim is to enhance casework delivery and integration planning. It is intended to be used as a practical tool to help measure, assess and review refugee families’ existing social connections.  

Staff: Alison Strang, Arek Dakessian, Leyla Kerlaff, Helen Baillot, Bryony Nisbet 

Full report available on request via IGHD Email Address

Read the Pathways Final Report:Full report available on request via IGHD Email Address

Social connections mapping in refugee integration support: Family Reunion Integration Service

This report presents findings from the extension phase of the Family Reunion Integration Service, a partnership project between British Red Cross, Queen Margaret University and Barnardo’s. Originally funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to run from January 2019 to September 2020, the project was extended to March 2022 with the aim to test the effectiveness of using the Social Connections Mapping Tool (SCMT) questionnaire as a practical tool to help measure, assess and review refugee families’ existing social connections.

Staff: Bryony Nisbet, Arek Dakessian, Leyla Kerlaff, Helen Baillot and Marcia Vera-Espinoza

Social Connections Mapping report: Full report available on request via IGHD Email Address


Channels of Hope

IGHD researchers have supported the evaluation of strengthening community-based World Vision programmes seeking to mobilize local faith communities in promoting child protection. After pilot work in Malawi, impact research studies have been conducted in Senegal, Uganda and Guatemala. 

Staff: Carola EyberKanykey Jailobaeva, Alastair Ager 

Visit the overview on the World Vision International website


RefugeeHosts: Local Community Experiences of and Responses to Conflict-Induced Displacement from Syria: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey 

This project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council aims to critically examine how, why and with what effect local communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are responding to mass displacement from Syria and wants to develop a greater understanding of the roles that religious values, beliefs and practices play both implicitly and explicitly in these responses. 

Staff: Alastair Ager, working with Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (UCL), Anna Rowlands (Durham) and Lyndsey Stonebridge (Birmingham)

Visit the Refugee Hosts website


The role of faith in social norms change: Child Marriage 

This study will develop quantitative and qualitative measures to assess the role of faith in norms around child marriage in communities in Bangladesh and Mozambique. Funded by World Vision, this mixed methods research will involve participants from Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities in urban and rural settings, and will assess, amongst other things, how effective engagement in child protection from a religious perspective is in bringing about change at community levels.  

This project is a collaboration with Coventry University and involves Carola Eyber and Kanykey Jailobaeva 


Faith-sensitive MHPSS with children in emergency settings  

While the faith component of MHPSS work with children is largely ignored by the main INGO actors and agencies working in emergency settings, a range of faith-based organisations (FBOs) have been actively supporting children in recovery processes for decades, at times using spiritual and religious elements as part of their interventions. This scoping study aims to identify existing evidence for practice in the field of faith-led MHPSS through reviewing grey and published literature and conducting interviews with key actors in the field. The GIZ-funded study is seen as a first phase leading to the development of a larger research proposal on effectiveness of faith-led MHPSS interventions for children as well as to facilitate faith literacy and enhanced MHPSS technical knowledge amongst actors in the field.

Staff: Carola Eyber, Rebecca Horn, Kathleen Rutledge


Strengthening Evidence for Scaling of Psychological First Aid in Humanitarian Settings 

Working with the War Trauma Foundation we recently completed this R2HC-funded study to looking at the deployment of Psychosocial First Aid (PFA) in the Ebola Response in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and its subsequent broader rollout across the health sector in these countries.  

Staff: Alastair Ager, Rebecca Horn, Fiona O’May 

Read the Research Snapshot on the Elrha website


Psychological distress in Sierra Leone: from local understandings to effective mental health supports 

In Sierra Leone, research on mental health has focused on the effects of emergencies. Our work addresses mental health needs across the general population.  We have identified common idioms of psychological distress, along with factors contributing to such distress and, most recently, developed a valid and reliable measure of psychological distress – the Sierra Leone Psychological Distress Scale. 

Staff: Rebecca HornKanykey Jailobaeva, Alastair Ager and colleagues from COMAHS, Sierra Leone 

Learn more about the NIHR RUHF project


Refugee and asylum-seeker experiences, trust and confidence with Police Scotland 

Funded by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) – Seldom-heard Communities Fund, this study will build an understanding of the quantity and quality of refugees’ social networks and their role in influencing engagement with the police. It will apply the Social Connections Mapping Tool (SCMT) developed by colleagues in IGHD, combined with in-depth interviews with refugees, asylum-seekers and police personnel to identify refugee and asylum-seeker experiences and confidence with Police Scotland and the associated structures and systems that work alongside Police Scotland (e.g. emergency services, mental health services, local council services, etc.).  

 Staff: Nicole Vidal & Bryony Nisbet 


Building a connected society: What works for refugees?

A two part recording of the half-day annual conference held on the 17th November 2021.

Part one

Part two 

The Institute for Global Health and Development hosted an online conference to explore policy and practice responses to refugee social connectedness and integration in wider communities. The conference aimed to promote dialogue around the challenges to person-centred refugee and asylum seeker integration planning. It consisted two 45-minute panels with academics and refugee sector practitioners who discussed the role of social connections in integration policy and practice. This was then followed by questions and open roundtable dialogue with the conference participants.


We would like to take this opportunity to thank to our partners for their valuable contributions to conference:

Professor Alison Phipps (University of Glasgow)

Dylan Fotoohi (Refugees for Justice)

Professor Dean Ajdukovic (University of Zagreb)

Alistair Dinnie (The City of Edinburgh Council)

Elodie Mignard (Scottish Refugee Council)

Raoul Hodgson (British Red Cross)

Fiona Crombie (Freedom From Torture)

Cluster members

Professor Alastair Ager is Director of IGHD and holds a continuing appointment with the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. He is the Principal Investigator of a major multi-agency evaluation of the impact of humanitarian programming targeting children in emergencies. Alastair is also currently researching the adjustment and well-being of displaced Syrian and Jordanian youth and the role of local faith communities in supporting humanitarian response.

Dr. Carola Eyber is a Senior Lecturer with IGHD with a specific interest in the assessment of child wellbeing across diverse cultural contexts. She has wide experience of engagement with the non-governmental sector– including ChildFund International and World Vision – and extensive field experience in Africa, including Angola, Malawi and Sierra Leone.

Dr. Alison Strang is a Senior Research Fellow with IGHD. She has contributed to the development of the field of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) through a series of field studies and practice development initiatives. She co-founded a global platform for connecting people, networks and organisations related to mental health and psychosocial support. Her research on refugee integration has global influence on refugee policy and practice. Alison was the inaugural chair of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy.  

Dr. Rebecca Horn is a Senior Research Fellow with IGHD, and works as an independent psychosocial specialist for a range of organisations. She is involved in research, capacity-building, and supporting organisations to integrate psychosocial approaches into their programmes. Her research is broadly related to psychosocial wellbeing in areas affected by conflict and displacement, and as a practitioner, she has focused on psychosocial programming in displacement settings.  

Oonagh O’Brien is a Lecturer at IGHD and is an anthropologist with over twenty years experience of working in gender, HIV and sexual health. She has carried out extensive research and monitoring and evaluation projects, particularly in the fields of Gender and Sexual Health in a number of settings including Europe, Colombia, Uganda, Nepal and South Africa. She also supervises a number of PhD candidates with topics in the areas of migration, HIV and sexual health. 


Research Fellows

Dr Arek Dakessian is a Research Fellow at IGHD and is a sociologist interested in cultural production, material culture, racialisations and refugeedom. Arek’s research at the IGHD revolves around refugeedom and integration. Arek is also a founding member of LIVED, an Edinburgh-based charity dedicated to researching refugeedom, as well as a member of the Social Network Analysis group of Scotland.

Helen Baillot is a Research Fellow with IGHD and works as an independent service evaluator and researcher for a variety of UK-based refugee voluntary sector organisations.  Her research interests include refugee integration, the rights and experiences of women and children within the UK asylum process, and family migration.  She is currently working on a two-year project exploring the role of social connections in the integration of refugees living in Scotland. 

Leyla Kerlaff is a Research Fellow with IGHD with a specialist interest in refugee integration and social connections. Her particular focus is on social cohesion and neighborhood relations. She currently works across three related projects with delivery partners in the UK including: the SRC AMIF project, the Family Reunion Integration Service and The Healing Neighborhoods Project. 

Dr Kanykey Jailobaeva is a Research Fellow with IGHD. Her research expertise has focused on child protection, child rights, community development, civil society, social capital, social norms and psychosocial support in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). She has done feasibility studies, child rights situation analyses, and other types of research studies for different international development organisations (e.g. UNICEF) in Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Western and East Africa.  


Research Assistants

Dr Nicole Vidal is a social anthropologist specialising in global health and social development. Her primary research interests include exploring ways to improve health and social care services among excluded and vulnerable groups, with particular emphasis on linking communities to health systems and improving the accessibility, acceptability and quality of health services.

Emmaleena Käkelä is a Research Assistant with IGHD working on the SRC AMIF project. Her research interests include displacement, cultural change, refugee integration and the relationship between gender-based violence and structural harm. She is also a Teaching Associate at the University of Strathclyde. Her participatory PhD research has examined women’s vulnerability to FGM and other forms of GBV from a migration perspective (viva pending). 

Bryony Nisbet is a Research Assistant with IGHD currently working with the British Red Cross’ Family Reunion Integration Service. Bryony has supported the delivery and development of multiple frontline statutory and third sector mental health services across the UK. Her research interests include mental health and psychosocial wellbeing; refugee integration and resettlement; mental health system infrastructure, development and accessibility; trauma informed, person centered practice; gender, health seeking behaviours and stigma. 


Doctoral Students

Elisa Calpona is studying for a professional doctorate and is focused on strengthening the existing child protection system in Egypt.

Lorian Viola’s work looks at the intrahousehold factors influencing the experiences of children living outside family care in Honduras.

Elle Bunyan is researching the narratives of former street children in Uganda.

Hannah Strohmeier is looking into the mental health and wellbeing of humanitarian staff in South Sudan.

Michael Blaney examines the lived experience of asylum seeking men who have been granted refugee status or leave to remain and are now living in the community in the Republic of Ireland.

Amanda Di Rosa’s work identifies patterns of connection, trust and resilience in FGM affected communities in Scotland to understand their influence on help-seeking strategies.

Kathleen Rutledge is exploring the role of religion in coping and recovery among displaced Muslim women affected by the ISIS conflict in Iraq and its implications for humanitarian response. 

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