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Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora: Contextualizing Pre-migration and Post- migration Traumatic Events and Psychological Distress

The objective of this study was to generate a deeper understanding of the influence of pre- and post-migration traumatic experiences on refugees’ psychological distress, including historical, political and social factors. This dissertation used a multi-method design to examine the impact of trauma on the psychological well-being of refugees. Further, the design included a qualitative component to provide a contextual framework for understanding refugee psychological distress that is not limited to an analysis of a disease model alone but by also making connections to important historical, social and political events. Post-Colonial, Refugee, Trauma and Feminist theories are used as analytic lenses to explain the social structures and events contributing to refugees’ pre- and post-migration traumatic events, and psychological distress. This was an international study that spanned two continents. Sampling included 50 Sri Lankan Tamil refugee participants who lived in Chennai, India and 50 Sri Lankan refugees in Toronto, Canada. Inclusion criteria included a residency period of the last 12 months in either of the sampling sites, and participants 18 years of age or older. Participants from Toronto were recruited through social service agencies and associations, and participants from Chennai were recruited from refugee camps, and the Organization for Elam Refugee Rehabilitation. Tamil versions of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire, the Post-Migration Living Difficulties Questionnaire, and the Symptoms Check List – 90R were utilized to measure participants’ pre- and post-migration traumatic events and psychological distress. The Harvard Trauma Questionnaire contained qualitative open-ended questions to triangulate the quantitative data in identifying and exploring the impact of contextual influences. Results showed that post-migration traumatic event scores positively predicted psychological distress, and refugee claimants living in Canada had the highest scores on pre-migration and post-migration scores. The qualitative analysis revealed themes related to civil war and resettlement as significant issues. Implications of these findings support the development of a multi-level approach within social work practice which emphasizes contextual issues, focuses on individuals, and promotes social advocacy. Recommendations for future research point to conducting longitudinal studies to assess the cumulative effects of historical, social and political factors on refugees and identify resiliencies that mobilize their capacity to survive.
Date03 March 2010
CreatorsGeorge, Miriam
ContributorsAlaggia, Ramona
Source SetsLibrary and Archives Canada ETDs Repository / Centre d'archives des thèses électroniques de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
Detected LanguageEnglish

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