Beyond Stigma: Barriers to Discussing Mental Health in Refugee Populations

Patricia J. Shannon, Elizabeth Wieling, Jennifer Simmelink-McCleary, Emily Becher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Mental health stigma remains one of the most commonly cited reason for why refugees fail to access mental health services. This study looks beyond stigma to explore refugees’ perspectives on why it is difficult to discuss mental health. Ethnocultural methodologies informed 13 focus groups with 111 refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Somali, and Ethiopia. Findings describing reasons why it is difficult to discuss mental health include a history of political repression, fear, the belief that talking does not help, lack of knowledge about mental health, avoidance of symptoms, shame, and culture. Recommendations for empowering and educating refugees are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-296
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Loss and Trauma
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 4 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We received partial funding support from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota through the Center for Victims of Torture. We thank the cultural leaders and interpreters for their invaluable assistance with this research: Amano Dube, Ehtaw Dwe, Fardous Egal, Chalthu Hassan, Saw Josiah, Parmananda Khatiwoda, Johara Mohammed, Mangala Sharma, and Wilfred Tunbaw.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Mental health stigma
  • Refugee mental health
  • Refugee trauma
  • Torture
  • War trauma


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