Health and Wellness

ACT: Taking Hurt to Hope

JoAnne Dahl, Ph.D.

ACT: Taking Hurt to Hope – Struggling with Migration and homesickness Guest Andrew Gloster

According to an article in the British Medical Bulletin, When people migrate from one nation or culture to another they carry their knowledge and expressions of distress with them. On settling down in the new culture, their cultural identity is likely to change and that encourages a degree of belonging; they also attempt to settle down by either assimilation or biculturalism

Migration is a process of social change where an individual, alone or accompanied by others, because of one or more reasons of economic betterment, political upheaval, education or other purposes, leaves one geographical area for prolonged stay or permanent settlement in another geographical area. It must be emphasized that migration is not only a trans-national process but can also be rural–urban.

Any such process involves not only leaving social networks behind (which may or may not be well established) but also includes experiencing at first a sense of loss, dislocation, alienation and isolation, which will lead to processes of acculturation. A series of factors in the environment combined with levels of stress, the ability to deal with stress, and the ability to root oneself according to one’s personality traits, will produce either a sense of settling down or a sense of feeling isolated and alienated.

In a classic study, Ödegaard1 reported that the rates of schizophrenia among Norwegians who had migrated to the USA were higher when compared with Norwegians who had stayed back in Norway. This study set the standard for further studies comparing rates of schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses as well as for comparing those who had migrated and those who had been left behind or who had not chosen to migrate. it can be argued that the process of migration, sense of dislocation and alienation must contribute to the stress on the individuals and their families even though their experiences of alienation and dislocation will be different both at individual and group levels. Several studies in the UK have demonstrated high rates of schizophrenia among the migrant groups especially African–Caribbeans in the UK. There seems to be a consensus that people who have migrated show more psychological stress symptoms than those who stay home. And it would seem that people who migrate need alot of psychological flexibility to adapt to new culture, new language new social rules.

It would seem that ACT has an excellent model of helping people to adapt to a new country. My guest today is Dr Andrew Gloster is an research scientist at the department of psychology at the University on Basel in Switzerland.