Contextualizing Afghan refugee views of depression through narratives of trauma, resettlement stress, and coping

This qualitative study explored how Afghan refugees conceptualize frames of mind that may reflect depression in general and as it relates to trauma they experienced. We performed in-depth interviews with 18 Afghans residing in the San Diego area. Views regarding the causes, symptoms, and perceived treatments of depression were gathered through free-listing techniques, and supplemented with narratives relating to pre- and post-resettlement stressors and coping mechanisms. Data were analyzed with standard qualitative content analysis methods. Items endorsed with relation to depression causality included pre-migration war traumas, notably separation from family, and post-migration stressors including status dissonance and cultural conflicts that ranged from linguistic challenges to intergenerational problems. Depressive symptoms were viewed as highly debilitating, and included changes in temperament, altered cognitions, avoidance and dis- sociative behaviors, and somatic complaints. Relief was sought through family reunification and community support, reliance on prayer, and the academic success of their children in the US. The findings underscore the need for practitioners to take into account situational stressors, cultural aspects of mourning and symptomatology, and existing coping mechanisms in developing interventions that are based on refugees’ articulated needs.

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