Mental health and work experiences of interpreters in the mental health care of refugees

Added April 4, 2022

Citation: Geiling A, Knaevelsrud C, Böttche M, et al. Mental Health and Work Experiences of Interpreters in the Mental Health Care of Refugees: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2021;12:710789.

Language: Abstract and full text available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: Stiftung der deutschen Wirtschaft.

What is this? Interpreters working with refugees often encounter emotionally stressful content. Information on interpreter’s work-related stress and psychological well-being might help policy makers to support them in this task.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies of the mental health of interpreters assisting in the provision of mental health care to refugees. They restricted their searches to articles published in English or German and did the most recent search in September 2020. They included 19 qualitative and 6 quantitative studies.

What was found: The authors identified three themes related to the mental health of interpreters assisting in the provision of mental health care to refugees: emotions, behaviour and coping strategies; working in a triad; and the working environment.

In the theme of emotions, behaviour and coping strategies; the subthemes were negative emotional and behavioural reactions, positive emotional reactions and motivations, and coping strategies.

In the theme of working in a triad; the subthemes were relationships with the client, relationship to practitioner and the interpreter role within the triad.

In the theme of working environment; the subthemes were working conditions and opportunities for improvement.

Interpreters assisting in the provision of mental health care to refugees showed increased levels of emotional stress and anxiety and secondary traumatic stress reactions.

Implications: The authors of the review concluded that there is a high level of psychological strain amongst interpreters working with refugees and that research is needed to identify potential protective and risk factors that would improve the development of treatment and care for refugees.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discuss their findings in the context of race, ethnicity, culture and language.


This summary was prepared by Joly Ghanawi, edited by Sydney Johnson and finalized by Mike Clarke.

Disclaimer: This summary has been written by staff and volunteers of Evidence Aid in order to make the content of the original document accessible to decision makers who are searching for the available evidence on the health of refugees and asylum seekers but may not have the time, initially, to read the original report in full. This summary is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians, other health workers, professional associations, guideline developers, or national governments and international agencies. If readers of this summary think that the evidence that is presented within it is relevant to their decision-making they should refer to the content and details of the original article, and the advice and guidelines offered by other sources of expertise, before making decisions. Evidence Aid cannot be held responsible for any decisions made about the health of refugees and asylum seekers on the basis of this summary alone. The text can be shared and re-used without charge, citing Evidence Aid as the source and noting the date on which you took the text.


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