Reactions to war and systemic violence: Differentiating distress from mental illness

Presenter: Dr. Clare Pain, MD, FRCPC, D.Sc (Hons); Director of the Psychological Trauma Program, Mount Sinai Hospital; Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
Date: Wed., Jan. 13, 2016



Refugees may feel emotionally or mentally distressed as a result of the difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences they have lived through and the challenges of resettling in a new country. Despite this, refugees overcome monumental challenges, adapt well to their new environment and do not experience mental illness.

It is useful for service providers to be aware of some ways of differentiating mental distress as a normal reaction to upsetting and traumatic events, from mental disorders that may require referral to a mental health professional for assessment and treatment.  When to refer to a mental health provider will also be discussed.

This webinar will:

  • explore ways of differentiating distress from mental illness 
  • discuss appropriate provider responses to both distress and mental illness 
  • consider the particular relevance of self-care for service providers.

Presenter biography

Clare Pain is an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto; Director of the Psychological Trauma Program at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto; Consultant at the Canadian Center for Victims of Torture (CCVT); Co-project director of the Toronto Addis Ababa Psychiatry Project (TAAPP) (; and Coordinator of the University of Toronto-Addis Ababa Collaboration Program (TAAAC) (  She received an honorary PhD from Addis Ababa University in 2014, for her work in mental health.

Dr. Pain's clinical focus is on the assessment and treatment of patients, including refugees, who continue to suffer from the effects of psychological trauma. She has lectured and taught on various aspects of psychological trauma including trans-cultural aspects and global mental health. She has published a number of articles including two books: "Trauma and the Body: a Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy" with Pat Ogden and Kekuni Minton (Norton 2006); and "The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease: The Hidden Epidemic" an edited book with Eric Vermetten and Ruth Lanius (Cambridge University Press 2010).

Clare Pain