Abstract: Resettlement Stressors, Cultural Resilience and Mental Health Among African Refugees: Findings from a Mixed Methods Study (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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366P Resettlement Stressors, Cultural Resilience and Mental Health Among African Refugees: Findings from a Mixed Methods Study

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Hanna Haran, Doctoral Student, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Youn Kyoung Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, LA
Betty Touni, PhD, Assistant Professor, Oakland University
Arati Maleku, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Background: Although resilience literature has contextualized risk and documented a number of relational protective processes that predict positive outcomes, there are stark gaps when it comes to community and cultural factors that contextualize how resilience is defined and manifested in the non-western context. Particularly, there is a paucity of research on culturally determined outcomes that might be associated with resilience among refugees. Refugee experiences in the post-migration context are often examined using a deficit or problem-centered lens. Focusing on African refugees in a Southern U.S. city, our study: (1) examined the interplay between mental health and resilience and (2) explored community and cultural factors that contextualize how resilience is manifested in the post-migration context among this population.

Methods: We used a two-phased transformative explanatory sequential mixed methods research design using a community-based participatory research approach for this study. Quantitative data (N=130) using a community survey was collected in the first phase on acculturative stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and resilience. Correlation analysis was employed to evaluate the relationship between mental health variables and resilience. Independent samples t-tests were conducted to determine the mean differences in mental health variables between African refugees who exhibited lower vs higher levels of resilience. Findings from the survey were used to inform Phase II of the study which was comprised of community focus group discussions (N=11). A nested sampling method was used to identify focus group participants from the survey respondents. Rapid and Rigorous Qualitative Data Analysis (RADaR) technique and thematic analysis were used to analyze qualitative data.

Results: Findings showed that resilience had strong negative correlations with mental health variables, specifically acculturative stress (r = -.35) and anxiety (r = .18). There were significant mean differences in acculturative stress by resilience levels (t = 3.58, p < .001). The mean difference in PTSD (t = 3.52, p < .001); depression (t = 3.586, p < .001); and anxiety (t = 2.65, p < .01) were also significant based on resilience levels. Three overarching themes related to resilience in the resettlement context emerged from the qualitative data: (1) cultural resilience: connectedness to culture and values; (2) community support & sense of belonging in new spaces; and (3) resilience and community competencies.

Conclusion: Resilience is characterized by a sense of connectedness to one’s culture and traditions. Cultural resilience was defined as the capability of a cultural system to absorb adversity, deal with change, and continue to develop. Cultural resilience thus implies both continuity and change. Because the inclusion of refugees in the U.S. is crucial for the overall development of cohesive societies, it is critical to comprehensively understand what resilience means and what it may look like from refugees’ cultural perspectives to promote protective processes of resettlement.