Mental Health and the Role of Culture and Resilience in Refugees Fleeing Violence

Author(s): Mark LUSK ; Silvia Chavez BARAY


This study focuses on the mental health and the role of resilience in Mexican refugees in the El Paso, Texas border region who experienced acts of violence, extortion, kidnapping, torture, arson, or other traumatic events in Mexico.  This is an exploratory study that uses using mixed methods. We gathered data using: the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and the O’Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale. We conducted extended interviews with adult participants (n=30) who escaped from the violence in Mexico to El Paso. Surprisingly, results did not show evidence of post-traumatic stress disorder. On the contrary, participants were highly resilient.  Among the major themes that emerged from the interviews, cultural components identified by the participants consisted of: support to families (familism), the ability to talk to others about their own experiences (personalism), the idea that they have no control over their situation (fatalism), and putting things in God’s hands (faith), which mediate the effects of the experienced violence.

Tags: Mexico, United States, Adults, Refugees, Traumatic life events, Violence, Torture, Armed conflict, Families, Social support, Resilience, Culture, Religion

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