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Socio-cultural manifestations of PTSD among asylum seekers and refugees: where is the trauma?
Team member Gail Womersley
   
Thesis director Laure Kloetzer
   
Abstract Europe is living through a refugee crisis of historic proportions which has now become one of the continent’s defining challenges of the early 21st century. Not least among the difficulties are the public health challenges of the multiple traumas faced by this population which constitute severe threats to human, social, cultural, and community development. The mental health impact of atrocities endured by refugee populations is clear, with the literature reporting significantly high prevalence rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among this population (de Arellano & Danielson, 2008; Kirmayer, Kienzler, Afana, & Pedersen, 2010; Lambert & Alhassoon, 2015; Schweitzer, R., Melville, Steel, & Lacherez, 2006; Zachary Steel et al., 2009; Sturm, Baubet, & Moro, 2010; Van Ommeren et al., 2001; Weine, Kuc, Eldin, Razzano, & Pavkovic, 2001). However, there have been significant concerns raised in the literature over the relevance and cross-cultural validity of PTSD as a diagnostic construct (P. Bracken, 2002; P. J. Bracken, 2001; Fisher, 2014; Hinton & Lewis‐Fernández, 2011; Janoff-Bulman, 1985; Kirmayer et al., 2010; Marsella, 2010; Staeuble, 2004; Summerfield, 2001; Tummala-Narra, 2007; Wasco, 2003; Young, 1995). There is a plethora of research indicating that culture and linguistic heritage influences what experiences are interpreted as ‘traumatic,’ the manifestations and expressions of post-traumatic symptomatology, the interpretation of symptoms, narratives of distress and healing models (Janoff-Bulman, 1985; Kirmayer et al., 2010; Kleinman & Good, 2004; Luno, Beck, & Louwerse, 2013; Marsella, 2010). In response to the need for more research designed to examine contextually specific and culturally relevant aspects of post-trauma recovery, the study aims to increase our understanding of trauma responses among refugees and asylum seekers within specific socio-cultural contexts by drawing on in-depth qualitative research techniques.

The study is centred on a year-long follow-up of 6-10 beneficiaries of the MSF Victims of Torture (VOT) Project in Athens and their partner organization, Babel. Complementary data will also be gained through 5 sources in order to locate these individual narratives within a socio-cultural context:
1) Semi-structured interviews with family and community members
2) Semi-structured interviews with ‘key informants’ - professionals working with this population
3) Routine data collected by the VOT project
4) Group discussions among beneficiaries of the project
5) Observing intake interviews of new beneficiaries entering the project
   
Keywords Refugees asylum seekers trauma migration PTSD
   
Type of project Dissertation project
Research area Psychologie socioculturelle
Status Completed
Start of project 1-11-2015
End of project 1-11-2019
Contact Gail Womersley