Towards a Culturally Appropriate Mental Health System: Sudanese-Australians’ Experiences with Trauma

Author(s): Alicia COPPING ; Jane SHAKESPEARE-FINCH ; Douglas PATON


Australia is fortunate to welcome approximately 13,000 humanitarian entrants per year, most of whom have experienced protracted violence, hardship and life in refugee camps. The majority of humanitarian migrants were raised in cultural contexts very different to that of Australia, contributing to the increasing diversity of this region. With this diversity comes a responsibility to ensure every Australian receives culturally appropriate mental healthcare. Those who are forced into migration have experienced trauma and the stress of acculturation often compounds this trauma. This study investigated the experience of trauma from the perspectives of Sudanese-Australians. Grounded theory methodology was employed to extract themes from interviews with 15 Sudanese-Australians aged between 19 and 49 years. Results demonstrated four overarching themes: support, religion, strength and new possibilities. The data within these themes are compared and contrasted with previous literature that has examined notions of trauma, distress and growth in western populations. Conclusions drawn from these results highlight the need to build inclusive practices that support diversity into existing trauma services in Australia.

Tags: Refugees, Australia, Sudan, Acculturation, Posttraumatic growth, Trauma, Acculturative stress, Psychosocial support, Culture, Forced migration

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