Stigma modifies the association between social support and mental health among sexual violence survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo: implications for practice

Author(s): Karin WACHTER, Sarah M. MURRAY, Brian J. HALL, Jeannie ANNAN, Paul BOLTON, Judy BASS


Background and Objectives: The aim of this study was to further understanding of the relationship between social support, internalized and perceived stigma, and mental health among women who experienced sexual violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Methods: Drawing from baseline survey data collected in eastern DRC, researchers conducted a secondary cross-sectional analysis using data from 744 participants. Regression and moderation analyses were conducted to examine associations between social support variables, felt stigma, and depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results: Emotional support seeking and felt stigma were positively associated with increased symptom severity across all three mental health variables. Stigma modified associations between emotional support seeking and depression (t = −2.49, p = .013), anxiety (t = −3.08, p = .002), and PTSD (t = −2.94, p = .003). Increased frequency of emotional support seeking was associated with higher mental health symptoms of anxiety and PTSD among women experiencing all levels of stigma.

Conclusions: Enhancing understanding of social support and stigma may inform research and intervention among Congolese forced migrant populations across circumstances and geographic locations. Implications for practice and research are discussed.


KEYWORDS: Social supportstigmamental healthrefugeesdisplaced populations

Tags: Democratic Republic of Congo, Refugees, Internal displacement, Women, Sexual violence, Social support, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Stigma

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