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Refugee identity and well-being

Today we will take a closer look at depression and well-being amongst refugees with a focus on refugee identity.

Researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Sehir University in Turkey studied mental health amongst Syrian refugees in Turkey; looking at it through the lens of social identity theory. Social identity theory proposes that we see ourselves belonging to certain groups and a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s). Henri Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world. In the present research, researchers were interested in knowing about how belonging to multiple groups and thereby carrying over the respective identities impacted the mental health of refugees.

They found out that when refugees who belonged to multiple groups, such as being a Syrian, or being a parent etc. before migration and then continued keeping these identities of the group after migration were related to higher life satisfaction and less depression. How is that possible?

Researchers pointed out the importance of belonging to different groups - as a protective factor for mental health of refugees, BUT it also can be a reminder of leaving friends, a source of great suffering. That’s why it is very important to help refugees “feel like home”, and not isolate them from society, but include, and invite them to be part of our social group.

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