Date of Conferral
Dr. Carolyn King
African immigrants and refugees drop out of mental health care at a higher rate than other populations in the United States. However, there is a significant lack of research on mental health treatment or reasons for dropping out of mental health treatment among African immigrants and refugees. The purpose of this study was to investigate the lived experiences with mental health treatment of Somali immigrants and refugees living in the United States. Eight Somali immigrants and refugees living in a midwestern state, were interviewed, and their accounts with the mental health system in the United States were recorded. A phenomenological method was used to develop and then to analyze data from the interview questions and generate common themes across participants. The findings revealed that respondents perceived mental health challenges in a negative way. Many respondents thought that such mental health diseases were caused by being cursed or demon possessed, and that these challenges were compounded by culture shock and language barriers for the Somali immigrants and refugees, and they perceived a lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness among mental health providers. Participants also perceived the mental health care system and providers in a negative way, because they believed providers lacked the cultural knowledge to support them. Similar studies reviewed in literature showed a strong interplay of both cultural and religious factors driving the high dropout rate from mental health treatment among immigrants and refugees. Information from this study could help mental health systems and individual practitioners to better understand the barriers and cultural values that can interfere with successful mental health treatment for Somali immigrants and refugees, and aid in expanding the discussion about mental health treatment for African immigrants and refugees.