October 9, 2023

Warriors in the Community, Episode 26: Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC)

Warriors in the Community is a radio segment that features short, insightful interviews with key figures from Wayne State University about the many ways in which the university and its programs make a positive impact on the metro area and on the lives of Detroiters. 

Episode 26 features Arash Javanbakht, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences and author of the book Afraid: Understanding the Purpose of Fear and Harnessing the Power of Anxiety, who discusses his work as the director of the Stress, Trauma and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC) and the group's impact on the lives of refugee children in the United States. STARC examines the longitudinal impact of exposure to war trauma in adults and children Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and biological (epigenetics, inflammation, autonomic responses) and psychological factors of risk and resilience in children and adults.


Announcer:  This is Warriors in the Community, brought to you by Wayne State University. And now, to learn about how Wayne State is positively impacting our communities, here's Darrell Dawsey. 

Darrell Dawsey: Today we are talking with Dr. Arash Javanbakht, associate professor and director of Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic, or STARC, and he's spearheading an effort to train schools across the state, especially those receiving numerous refugee children, to be aware of those children's needs, challenges and sensitivities. Welcome, doctor.

Arash Javanbakht: Thanks for having me. 

Darrell Dawsey: Now, you're researching mental health and refugee children in Michigan. Can you tell us a little bit about the main findings of the study and its impact?

Arash Javanbakht: There was no data available previously, so we launched this study a few years ago and we looked at refugees from Syria and Iraq.

We found very high level of anxiety, specifically suppression anxiety among children coming from these war torn areas and environments, and of course, very high level of symptoms among their parents.

Darrell Dawsey: Can you give us a sense of the scope of this? How many refugee children are in Michigan and what countries are they coming from?

Arash Javanbakht: So the numbers are not very clear. We are talking about a few hundred every year coming to the states. And the countries, I was looking at the list of countries, is very diverse. More so coming now from Ukraine. So a lot of the focus is now on kids coming from Ukraine and Afghanistan. 

Darrell Dawsey: Now before we wrap up, can you give us maybe an anecdote that sort of underscores for this training and it shows the positive impact that this kind of training can have?

Arash Javanbakht: So first was the understanding of how important is the mental health for the kids and how important it is in not only their physical and mental health, but also their academic functioning. We have also heard from teachers that now that they understand the kids better, they can work with them better.

And some actually who themselves, the teachers came from war torn areas, they were able to understand them. Selves better and their own challenges and their own experience. They found it helpful to be able to deal with the challenges of how to cope with it themselves and have to work with these challenging situations.

Darrell Dawsey: Dr. Arash Javanbakht, thanks so much for joining us. It was a pleasure.

Arash Javanbakht: Thank you. 

Announcer: This has been Warriors in the Community. For more Wayne State News, please visit us online and today.wayne.edu/wwj and join us here next Monday at the same time for more warriors in the community.

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