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Refugees typically spend years in a state of protracted displacement prior to permanent resettlement. Little is known about how various prior displacement contexts influence long-term mental health in resettled refugees. In this study, we aimed to determine whether having lived in refugee camps v. community settings prior to resettlement impacted the course of refugees' psychological distress over the 4 years following arrival in Australia.
Participants were 1887 refugees who had taken part in the Building a New Life in Australia study, which comprised of five annual face-to-face or telephone surveys from the year of first arrival in Australia.
Latent growth curve modelling revealed that refugees who had lived in camps showed greater initial psychological distress (as indexed by the K6) and faster decreases in psychological distress in the 4 years after resettling in Australia, compared to those who had lived in community settings. Investigation of refugee camp characteristics revealed that poorer access to services in camps was associated with greater initial distress after resettlement, and greater ability to meet one's basic needs in camps was associated with faster decreases in psychological distress over time.
These findings highlight the importance of the displacement context in influencing the course of post-resettlement mental health. Increasing available services and meeting basic needs in the displacement environment may promote better mental health outcomes in resettled refugees.
Refugees report a diverse array of psychological responses following persecution and displacement. Little is known, however, regarding the mechanisms that underlie differential psychological reactions in refugees. This study investigated the longitudinal impact of negative moral appraisals about one's own actions [i.e. moral injury-self (MI-self) appraisals] and others' actions [i.e. moral injury-other (MI-others) appraisals] on a variety of psychological symptoms over a period of 6 months.
Participants were 1085 Arabic, Farsi, Tamil, or English-speaking refugees who completed a survey at baseline and 6 months later either on-line or via pen-and-paper. The survey indexed demographic factors, exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs), exposure to ongoing stressors, MI-other appraisals, MI-self appraisals, re-experiencing and arousal symptoms, and feelings of sadness, anger and shame.
Findings indicated that, after controlling for demographics, PTE exposure and ongoing stressors, MI-other appraisals predicted increased re-experiencing and hyperarousal symptoms, and feelings of sadness and shame. MI-self appraisals predicted decreased feelings of shame, and decreased re-experiencing symptoms. In contrast, psychological symptoms at baseline did not as strongly influence MI appraisals 6 months later.
These findings highlight the important role that cognitive appraisals of adverse events play in the longitudinal course of psychological symptoms. These results thus have important implications for the development of tailored psychological interventions to alleviate the mental health burden held by refugees.