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‘Hiding their troubles’: a qualitative exploration of suicide in Bhutanese refugees in the USA

  • F. L. Brown (a1) (a2), T. Mishra (a2), R. L. Frounfelker (a2) (a3) (a4), E. Bhargava (a5), B. Gautam (a2), A. Prasai (a6) and T. S. Betancourt (a7)...

Abstract

Background.

Suicide is a major global health concern. Bhutanese refugees resettled in the USA are disproportionately affected by suicide, yet little research has been conducted to identify factors contributing to this vulnerability. This study aims to investigate the issue of suicide of Bhutanese refugee communities via an in-depth qualitative, social-ecological approach.

Methods.

Focus groups were conducted with 83 Bhutanese refugees (adults and children), to explore the perceived causes, and risk and protective factors for suicide, at individual, family, community, and societal levels. Audio recordings were translated and transcribed, and inductive thematic analysis conducted.

Results.

Themes identified can be situated across all levels of the social-ecological model. Individual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are only fully understood when considering past experiences, and stressors at other levels of an individual's social ecology. Shifting dynamics and conflict within the family are pervasive and challenging. Within the community, there is a high prevalence of suicide, yet major barriers to communicating with others about distress and suicidality. At the societal level, difficulties relating to acculturation, citizenship, employment and finances, language, and literacy are influential. Two themes cut across several levels of the ecosystem: loss; and isolation, exclusion, and loneliness.

Conclusions.

This study extends on existing research and highlights the necessity for future intervention models of suicide to move beyond an individual focus, and consider factors at all levels of refugees’ social-ecology. Simply focusing treatment at the individual level is not sufficient. Researchers and practitioners should strive for community-driven, culturally relevant, socio-ecological approaches for prevention and treatment.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: F. L. Brown, War Child Holland, Helmholtzstraat 61G, Amsterdam 1098LE, The Netherlands. (Email: felicity.brown@warchild.nl)

Footnotes

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Joint second authors.

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References

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Keywords

‘Hiding their troubles’: a qualitative exploration of suicide in Bhutanese refugees in the USA

  • F. L. Brown (a1) (a2), T. Mishra (a2), R. L. Frounfelker (a2) (a3) (a4), E. Bhargava (a5), B. Gautam (a2), A. Prasai (a6) and T. S. Betancourt (a7)...

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