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CVT Publishes New Report on Refugee Mental Health in Ethiopia

Published March 30, 2018

CVT REPORT: Assessing Refugee Mental Health in Ethiopia: A Representative Survey of Adi Harush and Mai Ayni Camps

CVT has completed a report of findings of an assessment of Eritrean refugee mental health conducted in two camps in Northern Ethiopia, where CVT has extended rehabilitative care since 2013. This report, authored by Shannon Golden, Ph.D., CVT research associate, provides key findings from 548 individuals regarding knowledge and attitudes about mental health, stressors and symptoms, coping strategies, reports of mental health concerns with loved ones or household members, and access to services.

The study was completed primarily to help understand the mental health needs of individuals who have survived torture and other traumatic experiences, and also to inform the work of CVT and other service providers as they strive to meet those needs. The stresses of traumatic experiences that refugees survived in their home country, combined with the risks and trauma that often come with forced migration and the continuing challenges of refugee life, impact refugees in ways that can affect every aspect of their daily lives.

The findings emphasize the need for mental health care as part of crisis response for refugee populations. Results showed daily stressors such as worry about people back home and grief for loss of loved ones were difficulties in respondents’ lives, with over 70 percent of respondents saying these were problems. In addition, over one-third of respondents reported experiencing symptoms in the past two weeks that included sleep problems, difficulty concentrating and feeling less interest in things they once enjoyed.

There is little representative data available about the mental health of refugee populations, an important consideration when developing interventions that will be most effective. In the report, Shannon notes, “Understanding and attending to the mental health needs of survivors, including interdisciplinary rehabilitation from trauma, is a key part of restoring dignity in the wake of human rights abuses and providing a form of justice for those who suffered harms.”

The study also revealed some surprises. Key informants, consisting primarily of staff from other agencies providing assistance to refugees, were also interviewed about mental health needs and the impact of CVT services. This allowed for a comparison of responses with those from refugee population. Not all responses matched up. In one interesting finding, refugee respondents showed positive attitudes about mental health, with 94 percent agreeing that it is good to talk about their mental health with family and friends. By contrast, key informants raised concerns that refugees would be uncomfortable talking about their mental health.

In addition, another key finding in the study was the importance respondents placed on spirituality as an important tool to help them cope with sadness or anxiety. Over 90 percent of respondents said they used prayer, meditation or other spiritual activities to help themselves deal with emotions.

“The majority of refugees in Adi Harush and Mai Ayni reported positive attitudes about mental health,” said Shannon. This may indicate the possibility of effective care and progress for many people in the camps.

Download the full report here.

CVT’s work with Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia is funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

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