Mental Health Risk Factors Among Refugees

Escape from conflict in one’s native country does not necessarily make for a life free of serious concerns or mental health challenges according to research out of the University of London, recently published in BioMed Central Public Health (available online).  Using a mixed-methods approach, the researchers examined  the social and environmental conditions in of two groups of Somali refugees – one group settled in London, England and one in Minnesota in the United States.

The study, Migration experiences, employment status and psychological distress among Somali immigrants: a mixed-method international study,  reveals the power of the mere label of “refugee”, along with other findings:

  • Employment was a major factor in the wellness of the displaced Somalis. Gainful employment lowered the risk for depression for respondents by a significant amount.
  • In London, 90 percent of the Somalis were unemployed, compared to 26 percent in the Minnesota group.  Even with similar pre-resettlement backgrounds, the rates of current major depression, suicide ideation and agoraphobia were higher among the London group.
  • The label “refugee” was a sort of stigma in itself, lending to a feeling of powerlessness. Researchers noted that even those displaced persons with professional-level skills and knowledge of the English language found it difficult to adapt to their new surroundings.

This study may be helpful for nonprofits that offer resettlement services as it highlights significant risk factors for mental health challenges that impact the refugee population both in Europe and the United States.  As the data suggest, while language skills and employment status are of high importance, the needs of this population are more complex and nuanced than perhaps realized by policy-makers and service providers.


Study Citation:  Migration experiences, employment status and psychological distress among Somali immigrants: a mixed-method international study BMC Public Health 2012, 12:749 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-749. Nasir Warfa ( Sarah Curtis ( Charles Watters ( Ken Carswell ( David Ingleby ( Kamaldeep Bhui ( September 2012.

Nonprofit Employment Essentials – Respect and Trust Rank Higher than Child Care, Diversity

What makes a job a fulfilling job?

What do nonprofit professionals expect from their organizations?

Are nonprofits meeting the needs of their employees?

During the summer of 2011, Professionals for NonProfits (PNP) surveyed employees and potential employees (those looking for jobs) in the greater New York City nonprofit sector on how they felt about their current job and what elements of employment they considered essential.

Essentials & Nonessentials:
Among the employment factors considered most essential, respondents listed respect and trust from management, a compelling organizational mission, a fiscally stable organization and competitive compensation packages in line with those offered by similar agencies. Least essential factors included staff diversity, child care, and casual dress codes.

In Need Of:
When asked to identify any essential factors that were currently unmet, the majority of participants were frustrated with office politics, with 74 percent claiming that internal politics interfered with their work, 66 percent reported that their employer did not offer salaries and benefit packages similar to other nonprofits, and 65 percent felt that outstanding performance was not recognized at their workplace.

The full report includes data on respondent demographics and perceptions of working in the nonprofit sector during the economic downturn. The Good Nonprofit Job Report – New York, as well as survey results from nonprofit professionals in New Jersey and Washington DC are available at the Professionals for Nonprofits website.

What are your “essentials” for fulfilling employment?

Update on the Nation’s TANF Program – Do We Need More Data?

According to a United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) statement regarding the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the number of families receiving benefits dropped by nearly half (approximately 50 percent) between 1997 and 2008, while the proportion of cases of child-only benefits increased (from 35 percent to almost half of all TANF cases). The GAO analyzed data from all states and surveyed TANF administrators to identify changes in the caseload amounts and demographics (if any) since the passage of the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) which reauthorized TANF while implementing changes to the employment standards required of TANF participants.

The research, TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE FOR NEEDY FAMILIES:Update on Families Served and Work Participation: A Statement of Kay E. Brown, Director Education, Workforce, and Income Security, includes the report that approximately 33 percent of families receiving TANF assistance in the country meet the work requirements.

The report concludes with the opinion that the current data collection system does not allow for a totality of understanding regarding the persons served by, or the benefits of, the TANF program nationally. This may be due in part to reporting standards only requiring data on the cash assistance piece of the program. So, it appears that there is scant empiric measurement around how TANF services assist welfare reform aims – an unfortunate conclusion as knowledge of what programs accomplish, and whom they benefit, should be a basic requirement of their continuation.

A complete copy of the statement is available at the GAO website.

Congratulations, Your Nonprofit has Succeeded. Now What?

What would happen if the very reason for your nonprofit’s existence disappeared tomorrow? Would your office be in celebration or survival mode? Would you be paralyzed with uncertainty or prepared to redefine your organization’s (or your personal) mission statement?

In the post Defining Victory – What If It’s Cured? at the Leadership For Good blog, Mike Cassidy challenges his readers to contemplate the answer to the question “what’s next?” What a straightforward yet mildly portentous question! If you aren’t working to end something (a disease, a condition, a policy, a prejudice) and by doing so greatly increase the quality of life for those you serve and the larger community, then what are you working toward?

So, what would YOU do?