Barcelona snapshots

Prof. Marit Sijbrandij

Marit Sijbrandij psiquiatra Controversias Psiquiatría Barcelona
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Países Bajos
Ponencia Prevención de trastornos mentales relacionados con el trauma
Fecha Viernes, 26 de abril, 2024
Hora 16:00 - 16:45
Mesa redonda 3 Intervenciones terapéuticas


Marit Sijbrandij is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Department of Clinical, Neuro- and Developmental Psychology at VU University [Vrije Universiteit], Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center at VU University.

Her areas of research are prevention, (early) interventions and public mental health interventions for mental disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and depression in populations exposed to trauma and adversities, including refugee populations and populations in low- and middle-income countries.

Marit Sijbrandij has completed multiple trials evaluating intervention strategies in the acute aftermath of trauma and adversities for prevention of common mental health symptoms including posttraumatic disorder (PTSD). She is coordinator of several EU projects, that evaluate the effectiveness of the scalable WHO programs for Syrian refugees across countries in Europe and the Middle East and for individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Other research involves the prevalence and predictors of common mental disorders, including PTSD among trauma-affected populations.


Armed conflicts worldwide have caused a inprecedented increase in the number of refugees since World War II. Many refugees and people exposed to war or other humanitarian disasters have an increased risk of mental health problems due to their experiences, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, grief, and somatic health symptoms. In addition to the mental health symptoms suffered by those affected, wars and other large-scale crises have disruptive effects on communities worldwide, and on generations to come.

This underlines the need for effective preventive interventions that acute reduce mental health concerns, thus preventing a possible cycle of trauma across communities and intergenerational transmission. The most well-known examples of preventive psychological interventions are debriefing and psychological first aid (PFA). In addition, prevention with pharmacological options, such as hydrocortisone has also been evaluated. During the presentation, the evidence for these types of interventions will be highlighted. More recently, the focus has shifted from one-off interventions for everyone involved in the acute phase following trauma, to selective prevention strategies for people with increased levels of distress. As part of their mhGAP action program, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a set of scalable interventions that are intended to be deployed worldwide in war and crisis situations. An example is the “Problem Management Plus” (PM+) program, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2013. PM+ is intended for reducing depression, (post-traumatic) stress and anxiety complaints in crisis situations and in places where little specialist treatment is available, due to a lack of practitioners for specialist care or waiting lists.

Prof. Dr. Marit Sijbrandij's STRENGTHS project (2017-2022), funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 program, aimed to investigate the effectiveness of low-intensity psychological programs, including PM+ for Syrian refugees in Europe and Syria’s bordering countries. In STRENGTHS, the effectiveness of PM+ was investigated in Jordan, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The digital version of PM+, Step-by-Step, was tested in Germany, Sweden and Egypt. The programs were adapted to the Syrian refugee population through qualitative research with Syrian colleagues. Comparative studies were then carried out in each of these countries into the effectiveness of the programs offered and into their cost-effectiveness.

In total, more than 2,500 participants with a Syrian refugee background who stayed in various places in the Middle East and Europe took part. The participants were recruited by the VU and partner organizations, with Marit Sijbrandij (VU) as the overall coordinator.

During the conference, the findings of the STRENGTHS project among Syrian refugees will be presented. In addition, other recent findings on scalable interventions will be highlighted. These include the findings of the EU H2020 RESPOND project where scalable interventions have been evaluated to address mental health symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, and the EU4Health U-RISE project, where a range of scalable intreventions including PM+, but also a PFA chatbot intervention are implemented among Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.


  • de Graaff AM, Cuijpers P, <...>, Sijbrandij M; (2023). "STRENGTHS Consortium. Peer-provided psychological intervention for Syrian refugees: results of a randomised controlled trial on the effectiveness of Problem Management Plus". BMJ Ment Health. 2023 Feb;26(1):e300637. doi: 10.1136/bmjment-2022-300637. Epub 2023 Feb 8. PMID: 36789918; PMCID: PMC10035776.
  • Sijbrandij et al (2017). "Strengthening mental health care systems for Syrian refugees in Europe and the Middle East: integrating scalable psychological interventions in eight countries". Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2017 Nov 7;8(sup2):1388102. doi: 10.1080/20008198.2017.1388102. PMID: 29163867; PMCID: PMC5687806.
  • Sijbrandij M, Kleiboer A, Bisson JI, Barbui C, Cuijpers P. (2015). "Pharmacological prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Lancet Psychiatry. 2015 May;2(5):413-421. doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(14)00121-7. Epub 2015 Apr 28. Erratum in: Lancet Psychiatry. 2015 Jul;2(7):584. PMID: 26360285.