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. 2004 Dec;25(8):809-31.
doi: 10.1080/01612840490506392.

Belonging and Adapting: Mental Health of Bosnian Refugees Living in the United States

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Belonging and Adapting: Mental Health of Bosnian Refugees Living in the United States

Emily F Keyes et al. Issues Ment Health Nurs. .

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to elucidate the experience of Bosnian refugees currently living in the United States. Using a phenomenological method, seven adult female Bosnian refugees each participated in an audio-recorded interview lasting from one to two hours. Two major themes emerged from the analyses of the text: belonging and adapting. Belonging included concepts of cultural memory, identity and difference, empathy and reciprocity, and perfection of speech. Adapting focused on coping with transitions, coping with memories of past and attendant losses, coping with accepting a new culture while trying to fit into the new culture, and learning the new language perfectly. Implicit in the refugees' experiences were states of culture shock, loneliness, psychic numbness, grief, nostalgia, and feelings of dejection, humiliation, inferiority, and feeling as if they belonged nowhere. Simultaneously, the refugees reported feelings of relief and safety after leaving behind the threat of death in their old homes, feelings of gratefulness for their new freedom to hope for a better life, and their restored ability to notice beauty, as well as a sense of normalcy in their new lives. Recommendations for nursing research include the need to identify additional factors promoting successful belonging and adapting in refugees. Recommendations for nursing practice include the importance of adopting a perspective that is respectful of the uniqueness of each refugee and the necessity for recognizing the normal processes of refugee adaptation.

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