Online Program

Coping with migration and resettlement distress among marginalized refugee families in the u.s.: A gap in refugee resettlement policy

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hyojin Im, Ph.D., School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Mental health care for conflict affected populations including refugees – in spite of the high prevalence of common mental disorders in these populations – is often deprioritized due to limited resources in transit settings. Such neglect of mental health care, however, continues upon resettlement in developed host countries partially due to the dilatory response to refugee needs in law and policy. Overemphasis on rapid self-sufficiency in the Refugee Act of the U.S., for example, has been criticized for the marginalization and isolation of refugees while failing to address mental health need in traumatized communities. The current study reviews U.S. refugee resettlement policy from a public health perspective with a focus on the relation between such policies, mental health needs, and issues in resettlement. Based on modified analytic induction of in-depth interviews with marginalized Hmong and Somali refugee families and community stakeholders, this research reveals how refugee marginalization is associated with policy gaps and transition of resources in refugee communities at various levels. This research underscores the importance of resettlement policy focusing on culturally responsive and appropriate services considering various challenges and mental health needs among refugees as well as cultural unique coping strategies of refugee families in socioecological contexts. Other implications will be also discussed to improve resettlement outcomes and social integration as well as mental health in refugee communities in the U.S.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Identify mental health needs among marginalized refugee families resettled in the U.S. Demonstrate how refugee resettlement policy fails to address such needs in refugee communities. Discuss policy and service implications for public health professionals working with refugee communities, including Hmong and Somali populations.

Keyword(s): Refugees, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: While involved in several community-based participatory research projects to improve refugee mental health, I have been the principal investigator of two projects on refugee integration and mental health both in the U.S. and global contexts to investigate how unique challenges that refugee face due to war trauma and forced migration interact with mental health and community integration. I authored several articles on refugee mental health while working with the Center for Victims of Torture.
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: 3311.0: Behavioral health issues