Title

Exploration of Protecting Factors that Contribute to Refugee Mental Well-being

Conference Strand

Research and Theory

Abstract

A focus on refugees’ strengths is needed to provide a more complex understanding of the migration experience. This presentation will focus on protective factors that safeguard mental well-being in refugees. It will discuss the purpose and results of a qualitative study conducted with refugees and staff members from agencies that work with them.

Description

This presentation will focus on individual and systemic protective factors for refugees uncovered from a qualitative inquiry based on interviews with refugees and staff members working in agencies that serve them. The purpose of the presentation is twofold: 1) to describe and present the results of the study 2) to increase awareness and educate counselors on the unique protective factors that help refugees cope with migration and resettlement. The presenters hope that this session will contribute to the promotion of cultural competency among the conference attendees.

By exploring the perspectives of both refugees and staff members working closely with them, this study aims at identifying individual and systemic resources that promote mental health. This presentation will discuss a qualitative study conducted with refugees and staff members working in agencies serving this population. The objective of this presentation is to inform counselors on 1) the protective factors that safeguard mental well-being in refugees, 2) the individual-related protective factors that influence mental well-being in refugees, and (3) the organizational and systemic protective factors that influence mental well-being in refugees from the perspective of both refugees and staff members working with them.

Evidence

In 2015, 69, 933 refugees were admitted into the United States, totaling 326,669 refugees since 1975 (Department of State, 2015). A refugee is someone who has a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (UNHCR, 1951). Refugees have disproportionately high levels of distress related to post-migration challenges (Goodkind, et al., 2014). Refugees experience internal barriers such as mental illness, discrimination, mistrust, as well as external barriers such as limited services, interpretation issues, employment insecurity, lack of food or shelter, barriers to accessing health insurance and medication, social isolation and lack of meaningful social roles (Asgary & Segar, 2011; Goodkind, et al., 2014; Njeru, et al., 2016). Additionally, refugees encounter barriers when trying to navigate complex systems of care (Asgary & Segar, 2011). To address these barriers some have suggested that intervening at a systemic level is necessary (Asgary & Segar, 2011; Betancourt, Frounfelker, Mishra, Hussein & Falzarano, 2015).

Considering this growing population, there is a need for educating counselors on the unique characteristics of refugees and their migration experiences (Bemak et. al, 2005; Chi-Ying Chung et. al, 2008; Davies & Webb, 2005). Sue and colleagues (1992) introduced the importance of incorporating multicultural counseling competencies into the training and curriculum of mental health counselors. These competencies emphasize that counselors need to develop awareness of themselves as cultural beings, knowledge of different cultures, and grow conscious of the impact that social forces such as oppression and discrimination have on individuals. This presentation can inform multiculturally sensitive and effective therapeutic interventions for mental health counselors working with refuges.

Format

Individual Presentations

Biographical Sketch

Ms. Claudia Interiano is a Licensed Professional Counselor- Associate and a third year doctoral student in the Counseling Education and Supervision program at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She obtained an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Her clinical experience include working as a high school counselor in Honduras, and providing mental health services to the Latino/Hispanic population in the United States. Research interests include: acculturation, Hispanic/Latino mental health issues, trauma, and refugees.

Ms. Elvita Kondil is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a third year doctoral student in Counselor Education and Supervision at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She became interested in working with refugees in 1998 while working with displaced Kosovo war refugees in Albania. Her research interested include: resiliency and systemic barriers to refugees and their families.

Location

Room 218/220

Start Date

2-17-2017 10:45 AM

End Date

2-17-2017 12:00 PM

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Feb 17th, 10:45 AM Feb 17th, 12:00 PM

Exploration of Protecting Factors that Contribute to Refugee Mental Well-being

Room 218/220

A focus on refugees’ strengths is needed to provide a more complex understanding of the migration experience. This presentation will focus on protective factors that safeguard mental well-being in refugees. It will discuss the purpose and results of a qualitative study conducted with refugees and staff members from agencies that work with them.