233180 Great expectations: The experience of recently resettled refugees in central North Carolina

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Holly C. Sienkiewicz, MA , Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Kelly Mauceri, BS , Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Emma Catherine Howell, BA , Department of Romance Languages, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Jessica Garnett, BA , Department of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Jack A. Tyler, BA , UNCG School of Human Environmental Sciences, The Center for New North Carolinians, Greensboro, NC
Daniel L. Bibeau, PhD , Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
Background: Refugees often have unrealistic expectations about life in the US and are disappointed when they discover the realities of their post-migration situations. The disconnect between actual living conditions and expectations may result in increased stress that can exacerbate prior or contribute to nascent mental health conditions. This community-based participatory research project sought to retrospectively chronicle the pre-migration expectations held by recently resettled refugees about life in the US prior to arrival and compare these expectations to current situations. Methods: French-speaking African refugees were interviewed (n = 10) in spring 2010, using a participant list provided by a resettlement agency. Snowball sampling was utilized after initial contact with individuals on the list. Eligible participants lived in the US for three years or less, spoke French, and were at least 21 years old. Interviews were translated in real time and audio-recordings transcribed verbatim. Results: Findings confirmed a discrepancy between expectations and current situations. Pre-migration expectations included immediate employment opportunities in their profession, time to learn English, and the provision of ample sized housing in safe neighborhoods. The current situation included high rates of unemployment and underemployment, language barriers, housing dissatisfaction, and neighborhood safety concerns, among others. The expectations maintained did not align with current living conditions and high levels of stress were indicated. Discussion: The stress associated with the discrepancy between expectations and reality can aggravate mental health conditions magnifying the susceptibility of this already vulnerable population. Recommendations to address pre-migratory expectations in post-migration settings will be discussed.

Learning Objectives:
1. List three common expectations held by French-speaking African refugees prior to migration. 2. Compare the pre-migration expectations of this population in relationship to their current living situations. 3. Explain two ways that the issue of pre-migration expectations can be addressed.

Keywords: Refugees, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in public health education that has worked with and studied refugees for two years. I will be starting dissertation work on this topic this upcoming academic year.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 4254.0: Mental Health Issues