Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Poster Session

Department

Social Work

Advisor

Rachel Casey PhD, MSW

Keywords

mental health, mental illness, African refugees, perspective, treatment, United States

Abstract

As of 2016, 42 million refugees from around the world had been forced to flee their homes due to war, persecution, or natural disaster (George & Jettner, 2016). Due to these factors, as well as relocation and resettlement, refugees are at a significant risk for trauma and other mental health issues (George & Jettner, 2016). While the literature consistently validates this heightened risk for mental illness in refugees, more research is needed into refugee's perspectives on mental health. Through analysis of semi-structured interviews with eight refugees from Africa, this phenomenological study investigated refugee's perceptions of mental health and mental illness. Themes found from the interviews highlighted causes of mental illness from external factors such as war, poverty, stress, and familial relations. Aspects of spirituality could be seen as the cause of mental struggles (i.e. demonic possession), or strength (i.e. prayer, or seeking help from a spiritual leader). Stigma from refugee communities around seeking mental health treatment in the U.S. was also a common theme. Participants noted the need of education around mental health, mental illness, available treatments, and the breaking down of stigma against seeking treatment. This research shares crucial voices on the topic of mental illness, providing information to promote cultural sensitivity among practitioners working with African refugees.

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