Epidemiology of Mental Health, Suicide and Posttraumatic Stress Disorders among Bhutanese Refugees in Ohio

A study on “Epidemiology of Mental Health, Suicide and Posttraumatic Stress Disorders among Bhutanese Refugees in Ohio” has been published recently. This research was guided by three main objectives: (1) to examine the effects of trauma exposure on refugees’ behavioral health, with particular focus on anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance use, and other post-migration issues among adult Bhutanese refugees in Ohio; (2) to develop culturally appropriate outreach strategies and informational sessions for Bhutanese refugees based on specific barriers to health and wellness; and (3) to pursue meaningful outreach strategies to specific groups within the Bhutanese refugee population depending on where the greatest needs are demonstrated.

The study’s research methodology followed the one used by a similar study Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2012. The Ohio study which adapted the CDC instrument asked respondents additional questions on substance use and demographics. Among other important findings (with respondents varying between 192 to 200), the study found high levels of anxiety (30%), depression (26%) and PTSD (9%); higher levels of substance use such as dual (smoking and smokeless) tobacco use (28). Among the 23 respondents who self-reported having a mental health condition, 70% had depression and 13% had anxiety. A little more than 6% of 195 respondents were thinking about committing suicide, in contrast to 3% found by the CDC study. As for past experience related to trauma, violence, persecution, and oppression, the most common traumatic events the surveyed Bhutanese refugees experienced in Bhutan before they were settled in refugee camps of Nepal were: lack of nationality or citizenship (80% of 160 respondents); followed by having to flee suddenly (72%; n=144); lost property or belongings, including seizures by the government (Bhutanese) (68%; n=136); and religious or cultural persecution (such as, being forced to speak the national language or wear the national dress) (49%; n=98). Post-migration issues the Bhutanese refugees have experienced predominantly include: little help from charities or other agencies (70%); little help from government (69.5%); and language barriers (64.8%).

These findings among others point to the unmet mental health needs of the Bhutanese refugees. Further, higher rates of attempted suicides and suicidal ideation point to the critical need in the behavioral health community to step-up culturally and linguistically appropriate suicide counseling and awareness programs in the Bhutanese refugee community. Findings from the survey is expected to develop culturally appropriate outreach strategies and informational sessions for Bhutanese refugees based on specific barriers to health and wellness; and to pursue meaningful outreach strategies to address the unmet mental health and PTSD treatment needs within the Bhutanese refugee population.

Population of focus: Bhutanese Refugees in Ohio

Links to resource:

Date: 2015

Contact:

Dr. Surendra Bir Adhikari
Health Disparities Research Lead
Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services
Email: surendra.adhikari@mha.ohio.gov