The coping processes of adult refugees resettled in New Zealand.
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
A significant proportion of worldwide research concerning adult refugees has investigated clinical perspectives and emphasised the impact of pre and post-migration experiences as key factors affecting their mental health status. Nevertheless, a clear understanding of their mental health problems and psychiatric morbidity is difficult to obtain due to major prevalence variations and discrepancies between studies. Further, recent studies in New Zealand have underlined the limitation of health providers' abilities to meet refugees' mental health needs. On the other hand, despite the acknowledgment of refugees' endurance abilities to overcome traumatic events during both their pre-migration flight and in their first asylum countries, relatively less is known about their capacities to show positive adaptation to life's tasks in the course of resettlement in a final host country and how this impacts on preventing mental health problems. The current study, therefore, was undertaken to develop a theoretical understanding to describe and explain adult refugees' coping processes in overcoming resettlement difficulties and adjusting to life in New Zealand. This was achieved by using the grounded theory methodology where qualitative data were collected from twenty-six former refugees coming from war torn countries namely Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), Ethiopia, Kurdistan region and Somalia who are now living in Christchurch and Nelson. Participants described the basic social process of obtaining a social position as being the main goal which motivated them to develop their coping skills and behaviour. They explained that this was underpinned by the inter-relationship of their personal resources and gradual personal achievements which were influenced by encouraging external support from resettlement services providers and "caring" New Zealanders. Data collected during this study suggest that this dynamic process, in which personality and environmental factors interacted in a reciprocal and transactional relationship, appeared to be the condition sine qua non to negotiate and manage resettlement challenges. Indeed, participants frequently emphasised that if this interaction was not activated they faced greater difficulties in coming to terms with their new environment and in their adjustment to life in New Zealand, thus leading potentially to adverse mental health outcomes. Additionally, quantitative socio-economic data were collected so as to describe participants' characteristics. The study’s findings underline the complexity of adult refugees’ coping processes as well as some of the institutional constraints hindering their adaptation progress which can result in mental distress. These issues require responses which are beyond the health sector on its own. The implications of supporting the development of personal abilities so as to guide pragmatic support and encourage multisectoral collaboration are outlined and discussed. Areas for further research are highlighted as well as strategic issues which need to be addressed for improving the current situation of refugees resettled in New Zealand.