Religion & Mental Health

Faith Important for Healing
Strengths of the Bhutanese Refugees and Culture Although there are significant challenges facing the Bhutanese refugees during resettlement in the United States, the culture is rich and full of strengths refugees can draw on as they begin in a new country. Many of these strengths come from religious beliefs.(…) The effectiveness of faith as a means of coping with stressors is also clear. (…) Ritual expressions of faith may serve as antidotes to anxiety and reaffirm an individual’s place within the larger order of the universe, reviving the crucial sense of interconnectedness. Thus, religious Bhutanese refugees who follow a religion may find it helpful as they cope with the stress of resettlement and past trauma.
Anne Dutton, Community Strategies for Healing War Trauma: The Bhutanese Refugee Experience, 2011.

Importance of Community/Church Connection
Resourcefulness extended from individual navigation and negotiation of resources to the establishment of a system developed to benefit the community at large. The community has developed a system where volunteers meet in two different locations weekly. Monday’s location is at a local Baptist church and Wednesday’s location is at the house of a Christian pastor. Community volunteers are available to advise regarding any problems participants may have. The volunteers themselves are monolingual-English speakers but there is the availability for translations. Assistance may range from reading a letter to advising on a speeding ticket or other legal matters.
Lopez, Dixelia, Resilience in the Karen-Refugee Population from Myanmar/Burma Resettled in the U.S.: An Exploratory Study. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2016.

Religious Practices are Powerful Means of Healing
Spirituality and religion Trauma survivors overwhelmingly attribute their survival and ongoing personal strength to their spiritual and religious beliefs. However, at the same time they may question why such events were allowed to occur. Human responses to pain, suffering, and loss are central themes of most of the world’s religions. Many survivors find that religious or spiritual practices are powerful means of healing from trauma and in coping with trauma symptoms. Attending formal services, meeting with religious leaders, reading passages of holy books, and listening to religious tapes have all been reported as beneficial in coping with trauma symptoms. Health professionals can support and encourage refugees’ practices of religion / spirituality.
David R. Johnson, Center for Victims of Torture, Helping Refugee Trauma Survivors in the Primary Care Setting, 2005.

UK Study: Contacts with Religious Groups Contributes to Refugee Integration
There is evidence too that in the early stages of settlement contacts with religious groups, co-national and other groups increases the chances of receiving help with housing and employment.
Sin Yi Cheung, Social networks, social capital and refugee integration, Research Report for Nuffield Foundation, 2013.

Religion, Spirituality and Beliefs
Clinicians working with war victims have emphasised that after a severe trauma the central point in the recovery process is to integrate this traumatic experience into a meaningful context in the life story of the affected person (Vanista-Kosuta & Kosuta, 1998). Religion, spirituality and related practices can have that role as they have been found to be important coping resources in dealing with day-to-day living and severe traumas (Pargament et al., 2000; Tarakeshwar et al., 2003). (…) Shoeb et al. (2007) found that religious practices and beliefs generated active problem-focused coping amongst Iraqi refugees living in the U.S.A.
Dr. Maïté Pahud, The coping processes of adult refugees resettled in New Zealand, UNHCR Research Paper No.179, 2009

Refugee Integration in the Midwest
Elected and civic leaders throughout the Midwest are recognizing that they have a role to play in shaping immigration policy despite inaction at the federal level.  Whether by launching programs to infuse the local economy with new talent or adopting strategies to socially integrate immigrants, there is an unprecedented commitment from local leaders understanding the importance of immigrant integration in the region. This report puts the range of Midwestern initiatives into context, offering a concise overview of state, city, and metropolitan programs, as well as the robust non-governmental civic initiatives that sometimes operate alongside, or in place of, government-driven programs. By documenting the array of initiatives in the region, the report serves as a resource for others interested in replicating these models, highlights the extent of the momentum building in this part of the country, and encourages greater regional collaboration and engagement for individuals and organizations working on these issues.
Juliana Kerr, Paul McDaniel, Melissa Guinan: Reimagining the Midwest: Immigration Initiatives and the Capacity of Local Leadership,  Chicago Council on Global Affairs,  2014.

The Role of Religion in Support for Refugees
This paper argues that religious faith is becoming ever more important in the current environment of increasingly harsh immigration regimes across the world, and the simultaneous proliferation of conflict, disaster and deprivation prompting people to seek refuge elsewhere (Hatton, 2011). It examines some of the wide ranging ways in which religion currently plays a part in refugee and asylum seeker assistance, and seeks to contribute a bibliography of sources drawn from a disparate range of disciplines.
Christine Goodall, Shouting towards the Sky: The Role of Religious Individuals, Communities, Organisations and Institutions in Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers. In: New Issues in Refugee Research, UNHCR Research Paper No. 275, 2015.

Community Support and Well-Being Correlated
Observing Colorado refugees over a period of 5 years, the Refugee Survey & Evaluation (RISE) Study finds a significant correlation between social support and well-being. “Those who progress along the integration pathways do not do it alone. They rely on family and friends to pool financial resources, housing, child care, food, and information, and they rely on informants and navigators from within and outside their ethnic and language groups. This support and these networks seem critical to integration success.
Lichtenstein, G., Puma, J., Engelman, A., Miller, M. (2016). The Refugee Survey & Evaluation (RISE) Study, Year 5: Final Report—A Study of Refugee Integration in Colorado. Unpublished technical report (pp. 1-126). Bluff, Utah, USA: Quality Evaluation Designs.

U.S. Immigrant Children Experience Less Discrimination than EU kids
This intriguing study finds that children of U.S. immigrants face far fewer problems with discrimination than the second generation immigrant children in Europe.
Quote, “There is improvement across the generations in all non-EU OECD countries, whereas the reverse is the case in most of the EU countries for which data are presented in Figure 1.5. In these latter countries, the native-born children of immigrants are in fact more likely to feel discriminated against than their peers who have actually immigrated. Their sentiment could have grave implications for social cohesion. A possible explanation for this pattern is that persons who have themselves immigrated may have frames of reference more oriented to the origin country, while the native-born offspring of immigrants have been socialised into host-country norms and standards of equal treatment and are thus more aware of and sensitive to infractions of these standards.”
OECD: Indicators of Immigrant Integration. Settling In. 2016

Volunteers Are Key
Current R&P funding is insufficient to guarantee effective services resulting in client caseloads so large that caseworkers cannot accommodate all their client’s needs. This leaves organizations scrambling to find good volunteer assistance to help provide those services, yet volunteers require training and commit only for short periods of time putting further strain on staff who are already struggling to meet the needs of clients they cannot fully support. This vicious cycle is often misrepresented or is entirely overlooked in studies of refugee resettlement in the United States…
Kristin Keller: Refugee Resettlement in Oakland: Improving the Volunteer-Client Encounter, 2013.

Do Refugees Do Better in Areas of High Ethnic Diversity?
It is often assumed that areas of higher ethnic diversity will generate better refugee employment outcomes. That is apparently not so. According to a recent report, “(…) there is no significant correlation between an area’s diversity and economic self-sufficiency rate.” In areas of low diversity, much of this result might be attributed to previously resettled refugees who “paved the path” for future refugees.
Trevor Fleck: Finding Employment: Factors Influencing Self-Sufficiency Rates in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Matching Grant Program. (2013)

Do Agencies with Strong Refugee Communities Have Higher Placement Rates?
Some practitioners have argues that strong refugee community support would also lead to better refugee employment outcomes. That is apparently not the case. According to a recent report, “(…) years of [an agency’s] participation in the Matching Grant program was not correlated with economic self-sufficiency rates.” One plausible explanation is that ethnic enclaves have been shown to retard the rates of self-sufficiency by limiting opportunities to learn English and interact with other cultures, argues Fleck.
Trevor Fleck: Finding Employment: Factors Influencing Self-Sufficiency Rates in the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Matching Grant Program. (2013)

Overcoming Barriers: A toolkit for helping refugees adjust to life in the United States
(Description From Source)
. This toolkit provides people who work with refugees a brief introduction to the variety of challenges that refugees face including crisis, symptoms of mental illness, and emergency situations. The toolkit also suggests available local resources. Materials have been written and designed to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of the audience. The audience includes refugee community leaders, case workers, and volunteers. This toolkit was developed by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrant’s (USCRI).
USCRI: Overcoming Barriers: A toolkit for helping refugees adjust to life in the United States, 2015.

Parish-Support is a Clear Advantage Point
Agencies with religious affiliations provide additional socio-economic support. The history of the U.S. resettlement program shows that parish/community volunteer support is an asset to organizational capacity building and increases the quality of refugee services. In 2010, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services launched the Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees (POWR) program, to strengthen its support of church and community involvement in work for newcomers.

  • Recruited 14,000 new volunteers.
  • Formed more than 350 new parish and community partnerships.
  • Created new social service and parish mentorship programs tackling transportation, housing, jobs, and food, and language, legal and health care issues.

USCCB/MRS POWR Post – Bi-Monthly Newsletter (Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees Program E-Newsletter). 2010-15.