Online Program

Mental Health Care Acces and North Korean Refugees in the United States

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Louis Seungchan Kim, Department of Health Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
Background: Different mental health surveys performed in the U.S. reported that trauma related mental disorders are more prevalent within North Korean refugees because they have experienced forms of abuse and human trafficking in the process of escaping from North Korea. The stress of adopting to the democratic society also puts mental pressure on them.

Objective:To determine mental health and psychosocial issues prevalent within North Korean refugees, who came to the United States. Identify community resources that North Korean refugees utilize in order to cope with mental disorder and social adjustment issues.

Methods:Due to privacy policies and sensitivity of issues, I personally was not able to meet with the defectors and perform interviews. However, social workers from a non-profit organization performed the interviews. Ten specific in depth questions were asked in Korean to 40 participants; responses were voice recorded and typed electronically. 

Results: The refugees did have same cultural and language barriers like all immigrants, yet they found to have a greater adaptiveness to a new environment. 35 (n=40) participants have been diagnosed with PTSD. The refugees did have difficulties with accessing culturally sensitive psychosocial therapy and community support program. 

Conclusion: High prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is primarily due to abuses and human trafficking. Korean speaking mental health professionals should step up to provide culturally sensitive care to the refugees. Social workers and case managers can help them settle into the democratic society by providing educational program and social networking events.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Diversity and culture
Provision of health care to the public
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe the process of refugee’s acculturation into the mainstream society; How does Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have effects on the lives of North Koreans; Discuss how Korean speaking social workers or mental healthcare professionals should approach North Koreans when working with them; importance of cultural and language sensitivity; Explain how privacy protection laws have effects on the interview process of North Koreans; Differentiate ways in which social workers and healthcare providers intervene clinically and non- clinically; Assess how North Korean refugee children are able to acculturate into the society; Evaluate the appropriate measures for allocating community resources for North Korean refugees; What are ways in which South Korean immigrants or Korean- Americans get involved to help out the defectors (community based approach).

Keyword(s): Mental Health, Asian and Pacific Islanders

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Louis Seungchan Kim, B.S.P.H,Epidemiology, is the principal investigator of the study. He is an undergraduate researcher at the Department of Health Science at Brigham Young University. Since 2013, he has been conducting research studies on the social determinants of health and mental health services. He has presented at American Public Health Association 2014 under the guidance of Dr. Len Novilla, M.D., MPH.
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.