Is the degree of demoralization found among refugee and migrant populations a social-political problem or a psychological one?

Author(s): Lynne BRIGGS


Background and Objectives: Many international studies point to the negative impact of migration on refugee mental health while others consider the social and political aspects of resettlement are more important. This paper presents the findings from studies examining the degree of demoralization and the impact of other factors on resettlement among three cohorts of resettled refugees and migrant people residing in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The aims were to determine: participant levels of demoralization; ascertain if the goals contained in the New Zealand Immigration Settlement Strategy are achievable and whether the lack of such goals impacted on participant levels of demoralization.

Methods: Study questionnaires, standardized inventories, focus groups, individual semi-structured interviews, and a demoralisation scale were completed by three different cohorts of refugee and migrant people attending mental health and resettlement services in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The data was analyzed using statistical and thematic analysis.

Results: While a degree of demoralization was evident across all cohorts significant differences (p < 0.01) were found between mental health participant scores in comparison to non-clinical cohorts. Factors such as an ability to speak English (p < 0.01) and unemployment (p < 0.001) also significantly impacted on the demoralization mean scores.

Conclusions: The findings support the view that social and cultural issues play a role in understanding the degree of psychological distress among culturally diverse clients. Thus, in order to reduce the risk, additional factors associated with migration that may impact on resettlement need to be taken into account.

Keywords : Demoralization; Refugees; Migrants; Unemployment; Resettlement

Tags: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Refugees, Demoralisation syndrome, Psychological distress, Psychosocial risk factors, Employment, Language, Resettlement

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