RefugeesWellSchool: Preventive school-based interventions to promote the mental well-being of refugee and migrant adolescents (Horizon 2020)

Today, European societies face the challenge of promoting the integration of growing numbers of refugee and migrant adolescents. Supporting the mental well-being of these young newcomers is herein pivotal, with recent scholarly work emphasizing the preventive role of schools in promoting mental well-being. Yet, there is still little robust evidence on how preventive school-based interventions may impact newcomers’ well-being.

2018 This project has been completed 2023

Project Manager

Project Members

The RefugeesWellSchool project aims to further the evidence-base on the role of preventive school-based interventions in promoting refugee and migrant adolescents’ mental well-being, and on how such interventions can be implemented in diverse educational contexts. We specifically look at interventions furthering social support and social cohesion, since these factors are known to be highly beneficial for newcomers’ well-being.

Five interventions – school-mediation intervention, classroom drama therapy, social support groups in refugee classes, support networks on school level, and teachers’ training – will be implemented in six European countries. We will assess the interventions’ long-term impact on newcomers’ well-being (n=2500), particularly their impact on mental health problems, resilience, school attendance/drop-out, and social support.


A mixed-methods longitudinal approach will combine questionnaires completed by adolescents, parents and teachers, focus groups with these groups, data on adolescents’ academic achievements, and an economic assessment of the societal costs and benefits related to the implementation.

Additionally, focus groups and national committees with other stakeholders will evaluate the impact of contextual factors (e.g., educational system) in order to design models to implement the effective interventions in other contexts. As such, this study will lead to a solid evidence-base on the impact of preventive school-based interventions on young newcomers’ mental well-being and the possibilities to implementing these interventions in differing contexts.

RefugeeesWellSchool is conducted by a consortium of research institutions in the six participating countries, led by the University of Ghent:

  • Belgium: Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, Ghent University
  • Belgium: Education, Culture and Society Research Group, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Denmark: Danish Research Centre for Migration and Health, Department of Public Health, Copenhagen University
  • Finland: Department of Psychology, University of Tampere
  • Norway: Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS)
  • Sweden: Child Health and Parenting Research Group, Department of Public Health, Uppsala University
  • UK: Centre for Innovation and Research in Wellbeing, School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex

The RefugeesWellSchool project is funded by the European Commission under Horisont 2020 (H2020-EU.3.1.2. – Preventing disease: SC1-PM-07-2017 Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being in the Young. Project ID: 754849).


Szelei, N., Devlieger, I., Verelst, A., Spaas, C., Jervelund, S. S., Primdahl, N. L., Skovdal, M., Opaas, M., Durbeej, N., Osman, F., Soye, E., Colpin, H., De Haene, L., Aalto, S., Kankaanpää, R., Peltonen, K., Andersen, A. J., Hilden, P. K., Watters, C., & Derluyn, I. (2022). Migrant Students’ Sense of Belonging and the Covid-19 Pandemic: Implications for Educational Inclusion. Social Inclusion, 10(2), 172-184. doi:10.17645/si.v10i2.5106

Verelst, A., Spaas, C., Pfeiffer, E., Devlieger, I., Kankaapää, R., Peltonen, K., Vänskä, M., Soye, E., Watters, C., Osman, F., Durbeej, N., Sarkadi, A., Andersen, A. J., Primdahl, N. L., & Derluyn, I. (2022). Social Determinants of the Mental Health of Young Migrants. European Journal of Health Psychology, 29(1). doi:10.1027/2512-8442/a000097

Durbeej, N., McDiarmid, S., Sarkadi, A., Feldman, I., Punamaki, R. L., Kankaanpää, R., Andersen, A. J., Hilden, P. K., Verelst, A., Derluyn, I., & Osman, F. (2021). Correction to: Evaluation of a school-based intervention to promote mental health of refugee youth in Sweden (The RefugeesWellSchool Trial): study protocol for a cluster randomized controlled trial (Trials, (2021), 22, 1, (98), 10.1186/s13063-020-04995-8). Trials, 22(1). doi:10.1186/s13063-021-05840-2

Spaas, C., Verelst, A., Devlieger, I., Aalto, S., Andersen, A. J., Durbeej, N., Hilden, P. K., Kankaanpää, R., Primdahl, N. L., Opaas, M., Osman, F., Peltonen, K., Sarkadi, A., Skovdal, M., Jervelund, S. S., Soye, E., Watters, C., Derluyn, I., Colpin, H., & De Haene, L. (2021). Mental Health of Refugee and Non-refugee Migrant Young People in European Secondary Education: The Role of Family Separation, Daily Material Stress and Perceived Discrimination in Resettlement. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. doi:10.1007/s10964-021-01515-y