Regular Features:
Edition 4: March 09

All children feel unhappy from time to time. But when those feelings last too long, are deeper, and occur too often, the possibility of clinical depression needs to be considered. Refugee children and adolescents are at an increased risk because of the trauma they have experienced in the context of organised violence, the enormity of all their losses, and the fact that most have had to deal with these stressful life events before they were emotionally or intellectually ready. 

In this edition, I interview Dr Brian Graetz from Beyond Blue about their KidsMatter program; Deb shares some hypotheses about what causes childhood depression; and Gordana Hol-Radicic offers a case study to help us learn more about some of the specific struggles that young refugees face.  I hope you find this month’s e-zine helpful and look forward to your feedback.

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Deb Gould

> Deb Gould is a STARTTS Clinical Psychologist and clinical supervisor.

Sadness, grief and depression are all characterised by an affective state referred to as down, black or blue. All might involve sadness and tearfulness but the last two mentioned also involve a reallocation of energy from the present to preoccupations with negative thoughts and/or lost loved ones. Learn more >>


Dr Brian Graetz Depression in young people can present itself in different ways: some ‘act in’ (become sad, withdrawn) and others ‘act out’ (lash out and are aggressive).  Many of us are more familiar with the former presentation, and seldom think of the hostile, irritable young person as potentially depressed.  What are your thoughts? Learn more >>

> Dr Brian Graetz is a Senior Project Manager at beyondblue: the national depression initiative.

The Coddington Life Stress Scale – one of the most widely used life-stress measures for children – can be a useful tool to help determine the likelihood of depression in young people.  It is perhaps not surprising to find that events which carry some of the highest scores in the scale are not uncommon experiences for many young refugees:  the hospitalisation or serious illness of a sibling or parent (or themselves); the jail sentence of a parent;  the death of a close friend or parent, among others.  These events are highly traumatic for young people, and their impact should be taken into account when considering the possibility of clinical depression – in addition, of course, to other risk factors like gender, genetics/family history, childhood abuse, temperament, changes in the environment, and inconsistent or unstable caregiving. Learn more >>

Dr Brian Graetz Tenzin, a 14 year old Tibetan girl, was referred for counselling because of symptoms indicative of clinical depression. She appeared to be very isolated at school; had stopped eating; experienced disturbed sleep patterns; and showed symptoms of sadness and hopelessness. Tenzin also had strong feelings of guilt about surviving multiple traumas in the context of organised violence. Learn more >>

> Gordana Hol-Radicic is a Clinical Psychologist and team leader at STARTTS.

Annual Rivendale Youth Camp – is on during the upcoming April school holidays.  This is a fun camp for 10-13 year old refugee young people of either gender.  Hurry, only a few places left!  Contact Mohamed Baaruud on (02) 9794 1957 or email

April School Holidays Soccer Tournament – We are inviting individuals and teams of young people to express their interest about participating in a soccer tournament in Auburn on the 21 and 22 of April.  For more information contact Mohamed Baaruud on (02) 9794 1957 or email

July School Holidays Camp for 14–18 yr old girls – This 4-day camp will be held at Mount Victoria this year.  For more information or to refer, contact Lina Ishu on (02) 9794 1972 or email

Jungle Tracks Training – Jungle Tracks is a program that includes five short stories mirroring real life struggle related to the lives of children, adolescents and parents with a background of refugee trauma.  The next 1-day workshop is on June 11.  For more information or to register your attendance call (02) 9794 1900.

Biofeedback Training – This one-day workshop provides an opportunity for clinicians who work with children, adolescents and adults to deepen their understanding of how psychological trauma manifests through a range of emotional and physical symptoms.  For more information or to register your attendance call (02) 9794 1900.


Max Schneider
> Max is a Child & Adolescent Counsellor at STARTTS and the service's School Liaison Officer.

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Hint of the month

Young people will often turn first to trusted friends and family to talk about what they are going through. For that reason, Youth BeyondBlue recommends we widely promote and inform others about how they can help, using 3 key messages:

1. Look for warning signs - behaviour that has changed from how the young person would normally act, and which suggests he or she  may be depressed

2. Listen - as much as you can, and try to work out how the young person is feeling.

3. Talk & seek help together - Encourage the child or adolescent to seek help. Types of services available include the local doctor, specialist community services (such as STARTTS), education support services, counsellors and psychologists, phone help lines and internet-based services.

For more, visit: www2.youthbeyond

Disclaimer The information contained in Hints for Healing is provided as an information source only.  The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the position or views of STARTTS.  The material is provided on the basis that readers are responsible for making their own assessments of the issues discussed, and always work under clinical supervision.

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