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Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2011;32(5):279-90. doi: 10.3109/01612840.2010.550383.

If I was going to kill myself, I wouldn't be calling you. I am asking for help: challenges influencing immigrant and refugee women's mental health.

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University of Calgary, Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


It is estimated that 37% of Canadians experience some types of mental health problem. As a result of the migration process, many immigrant and refugee women suffer serious mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder, suicide, and psychosis. The purpose of this exploratory qualitative study, informed by the ecological conceptual framework and postcolonial feminist perspectives, was to increase understanding of the mental health care experiences of immigrant and refugee women by acquiring information regarding factors that either support or inhibit coping. Ten women (five born in China and five born in Sudan) who were living with mental illness were interviewed. Analysis revealed that (a) women's personal experience with biomedicine, fear, and lack of awareness about mental health issues influences how they seek help to manage mental illness; (b) lack of appropriate services that suit their needs are barriers for these women to access mental health care; and (c) the women often draw upon informal support systems and practices and self-care strategies to cope with their mental illnesses and its related problems. The authors discuss implications for practice and make recommendations for intervention strategies that will facilitate women's mental health care and future research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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