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Refugees are at risk of experiencing a combined constellation of complicated bereavement and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms following exposure to complex traumas associated with personal threat and loss. Features of identity confusion are central to both complicated bereavement and PTSD and these characteristics may be particularly prominent amongst refugees from traditional cultures displaced from their homelands, families, and kinship groups. We investigate whether a combined pattern of complicated bereavement and PTSD can be identified amongst West Papuan refugees participating in an epidemiological survey (n = 486, response rate: 85.8%) in a remote town in Papua New Guinea.
Latent class analysis was applied to derive subpopulations of refugees based on symptoms of complicated bereavement and PTSD. Associations were examined between classes and traumatic loss events, post-migration living difficulties (PMLDs), and psychosocial support systems.
The four classes identified comprised a complicated bereavement class (11%), a combined posttraumatic bereavement class (10%), a PTSD class (11%), and a low symptom class (67%). Symptoms of identity confusion were prominent in the posttraumatic bereavement class. Compared with the low symptom class, the combined posttraumatic bereavement class reported greater exposure to traumatic loss events (OR 2.43, 95% CI 1.11–5.34), PMLDs (OR 2.24, 95% CI 1.01–4.6), disruptions to interpersonal bonds and networks (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.47–7.38), and erosion of roles and identities (OR 2.18, 95% CI 1.11–4.27).
Refugees appear to manifest a combined pattern of complicated bereavement and PTSD symptoms in which identity confusion is a prominent feature. This response appears to reflect the combined impact of high levels of exposure to traumatic losses, PMLDs, and disruption of relevant psychosocial systems.
Following years of controversy, a category of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) will be included in the forthcoming ICD-11.
To test whether refugees with CPTSD differ from those with other common mental disorders (CMDs) in the degree of exposure to childhood adversities, adult interpersonal trauma and post-traumatic hardship.
Survey of 487 West Papuan refugees (response rate 85.5%) in Papua New Guinea.
Refugees with CPTSD had higher exposure to childhood adversities (CPTSD: mean 2.6, 95% CI 2.5–2.7 versus CMD: mean 1.15, 95% CI 1.10–1.20), interpersonal trauma (CPTSD: mean 9, 95% CI 8.6–9.4 versus CMD: mean 5.4, 95% CI 5.4–5.5) and postmigration living difficulties (CPTSD: mean 2.3, 95% CI 2–2.5 versus CMD mean 1.85, 95% CI 1.84–1.86), compared with those with CMDs who in turn exceeded those with no mental disorder on all these indices.
The findings support the cross-cultural validity of CPTSD as a reaction to high levels of exposure to recurrent interpersonal trauma and associated adversities.
A key issue in need of empirical exploration in the post-conflict and refugee mental health field is whether exposure to torture plays a role in generating risk of intimate partner violence (IPV), and whether this pathway is mediated by the mental health effects of torture-related trauma. In examining this question, it is important to assess the impact of socio-economic hardship which may be greater amongst survivors of torture in low-income countries.
The study data were obtained from a cohort of 870 women (recruited from antenatal clinics) and their male partners in Dili district, Timor-Leste. We conducted bivariate and path analysis to test for associations of men's age, socioeconomic status, torture exposure, and mental disturbance, with IPV (the latter reported by women).
The path analysis indicated positive paths from a younger age, torture exposure, and lower socio-economic status amongst men leading to mental disturbance. Mental disturbance, in turn, led to IPV. In addition, younger age, lower socio-economic status, torture exposure, and mental disturbance were directly associated with IPV.
Our data provide the first systematic evidence of an association between torture and IPV in a low-income, post-conflict country, confirming that low socio-economic status, partly related to being a torture survivor, adds to the risk. The high prevalence of IPV in this context suggests that other structural factors, such as persisting patriarchal attitudes, contribute to the risk of IPV. Early detection and prevention programs may assist in reducing the risk of IPV in families in which men have experienced torture.
Little is known about explosive anger as a response pattern among pregnant and post-partum women in conflict-affected societies.
To investigate the prevalence and correlates of explosive anger among this population in Timor-Leste.
We assessed traumatic events, intimate partner violence, an index of adversity, explosive anger, psychological distress and post-traumatic stress disorder among 427 women (257 in the second trimester of pregnancy, 170 who were 3–6 months postpartum) residing in two districts of Timor-Leste (response >99%).
Two-fifths (43.6%) had explosive anger. Levels of functional impairment were related to frequency of explosive anger episodes. Explosive anger was associated with age (>35 years), being married, low levels of education, being employed, traumatic event count, ongoing adversity and intimate partner violence.
A combination of social programmes and novel psychological therapies may assist in reducing severe anger among pregnant and post-partum women in conflict-affected countries such as Timor-Leste.
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