Assessing Mental Health and Service Needs Among Refugees in Malaysia


refugees, international migration, international social work, displaced populations, trauma, women's issues, Malaysia


Refugees in Malaysia often experience economic insecurity and poverty, poor health, poor mental wellbeing and limited legal rights. Using a survey with quantitative measures and open‐ended questions, we assessed socio‐demographic characteristics, mental health (RHS‐15), and service needs, including interest in group support services, among 86 Dari‐ and Arabic‐speaking refugees living in Kuala Lumpur. High levels of emotional distress were found, as nearly all participants scored positive for distress and average scores were 2.5 times above the cut‐off signifying distress. Distress scores did not vary based on most factors examined, although being married was associated with lower levels of distress. All but one participant expressed interest in participating in a support group. Barriers to potential participation included childcare, sickness and transportation. Additional mental health and social supports are needed among refugees residing in Malaysia.

Original Publication Citation

Shaw, S.A., Pillai, V., Ward, K.P.* (available online Mar 2018). Assessing mental health and service needs among refugees in Malaysia. International Journal of Social Welfare. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/ijsw.12313

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



International Journal of Social Welfare




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Social Work

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor