Title

Social stressors, social support, and mental health among Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

8-1-2015

Journal

Revista Panamericana de Salud Publica/Pan American Journal of Public Health

Volume

38

Issue

2

Keywords

Americas; Caribbean region; Dominican Republic; Haiti; Mental health; Migration; Social capital; Social support

Abstract

This mixed-method study explored the social world of Haitian migrants, examining forms of social support and social stress, as well as their relationship to mental health. Among six Haitian migrant communities in the Cibao Valley of the Dominican Republic, a community-based survey (n = 127) was conducted to assess migration experiences, current stressors, mental health, and functioning. In addition, to explore perceptions and experiences of migration, social interactions, and mental health, the study drew upon in-depth interviews and free-listing activities among Haitian migrants, as well as cognitive interviews with select survey participants. Depressive, anxiety, and mental distress survey scores were associated with 1) negative social interactions (including interrogation or deportation, perceived mistreatment by Dominicans, and overcrowding') and 2) lack of social support, including migrating alone. Mental distress scores were higher among women, and being married was associated with higher anxiety scores, potentially reflecting unmet social expectations. In qualitative data, participants emphasized a lack of social support, often referred to as tèt ansanm (literally meaning "heads together" in Haitian Creole or Kreyòl and roughly defined as solidarity or reciprocal social collaboration). The authors of the study propose that the practice of tèt ansanm - also termed konbit, and, in the Dominican Republic, convite - could be used as a means of facilitating positive-contact events among Haitians and Dominicans. These interactions could help counteract social stress and build social capital in settings similar to those of the study.

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