Update #4: Results of PTSD survey of refugees in San Diego

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

Hi everyone,

Just before 2012 came to an end, we managed to exceed our sample size goal (i.e. our goal was 150, we reached 213) in order to assess the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among refugees in San Diego.  The next step was to analyze the data to see what we could find out, and for that process we owe our thanks to three faculty members at National University — Jan Parker, Brenda Shook, and Charlie Tatum.

It feels painful to me to describe such extreme human suffering in terms of percentages, but with the intention of highlighting just how much the refugees willing to complete our questionnaires have endured, and how many are still suffering currently, it feels important to note below some of the findings.

Eligibility

  • Refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi, Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Uganda, or Kenya
  • Currently living in San Diego area
  • 18 years of age or older

Our sample of 213 refugees included

  • An approximately even gender split (slightly more women vs. men)
  • 75% from Somalia, Sudan, or South Sudan
  • Almost 70% that had lived in a refugee camp

The data revealed

  • 83% have endured traumatic experiences (e.g. forced evacuation, lack of food, water, shelter, access to medical care, violence, kidnapping, etc.)
  • 85% are currently suffering from symptoms of trauma, ranging from mild to severe (e.g. nightmares, physical pain, recurrent thoughts of terrifying events, etc.)

Number of traumatic experiences they indicated having gone through

  • More than 70% survived 3 or more
  • More than 50% survived more than 10
  • Nearly 10% survived more than 30

Top 5 trauma events

  1. Forced evacuation
  2. Lack of food and water
  3. Ill health without medical care
  4. Confiscation or destruction of personal property
  5. Lack of Shelter

Top 5 symptoms of trauma

  1. Recurrent thoughts or memories of the most hurtful or terrifying events
  2. Feeling exhausted
  3. Sudden emotional or physical reaction when reminded of the most hurtful or traumatic events
  4. Feeling that you had less skills than you had before
  5. Bodily pain

✶ ✶ ✶

At some point later this year will release more of the results in full detail.

These preliminary findings re-affirm our determination to continue with all necessary next steps toward Trauma Recovery for Refugees.

For now, our efforts turn to the planning of Phase 2 of this project, creating an experiential, abbreviated trauma recovery program specifically for the leaders in the refugee community. We will once again be focused on those from countries in eastern Africa. We want the leaders to have a firsthand experience of what our future program will be like. We will need their feedback and their endorsement when we are ready to launch the actual program.

With gratitude,

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n.
Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.

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Update #3: After four days of research with refugees… success!

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

Hi everyone,

Well, we had our fourth day of research in San Diego last Saturday, December 22, and we met with great success!

In order to assess the rate of PTSD in east African refugees living in San Diego, we needed to have completed questionnaires from at least 150 refugees.  We started the day in need of at least 25 more, and by the end of the day after having been at Horn of Africa, and United Women of East Africa Support Team, we had far exceeded that.  The additional 87 questionnaires put us at a grand total of 212!

That means the team at National University can take over in their area of expertise, analyzing the data.

A lot of planning and coordination was required to get us to this point.  It never would have happened if we didn’t have so much help from so many people.

Their names are below, the ones who have graciously given of their time and energy in numerous ways to get us this far.  We can’t thank them enough for their dedicated effort and commitment to this project!  Additionally, we have enjoyed their company along the way : )

Sahra Abdi (United Women of East Africa Support Team),  Abdulahi Aidid,  Reem Anani,  Lisa Grajewski,  Joseph Jok (International Rescue Committee),   Martina Knee (San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition),  John Kuek,  Terri Martin (Southern California Institute for Bioenergetic Analysis),  Isaac Mohamed (St. Luke’s Episcopal Church),  Abdi Mohamoud (Horn of Africa),  Hena Mustafa,  Valentine Nyambura,  Jan Parker (National University),  Brenda Shook (National University),  Mohamed Suleiman (San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition),  Charlie Tatum (National University),  Chuol Tut (Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego),  Wai John Wai (Sudanese-American Youth Center of San Diego)

Thanks again to everyone!

With gratitude,

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n.  Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.

Update #2: After the first three days of research with refugees

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

Hi everyone,

Well, our PTSD research sample size continues to be just a little bit short of what we need.

In November, we launched our project to determine the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in East African refugees currently living in San Diego.

After Day #2 we needed another fifty completed questionnaires in order to have an adequate sample size.

Day #3 took place at St Luke’s Episcopal Church and at the Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego.  We got about half of what we needed.

So, fourth time is the charm, right?

This coming Saturday, December 22 we will be back in San Diego, splitting our time between two locations, Horn of Africa, followed by United Women of East Africa Support Team.  We are assuredly oh-so-confident this time that we will in fact reach the sample size goal : )

Meanwhile, I am very excited to say that we have already started planning meetings about the actual program, Trauma Recovery for Refugees.  So stay tuned for more developments on that, and also about how the research turns out.

Fingers are once again crossed…

…and once again I want to thank you so much for supporting this project.  You have played an essential role in getting us to this point.

With gratitude,

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n.  Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.

Update #1: After the first two days of research with refugees

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

Hi everyone,

November was an eventful month.  After the prior months of planning, coordinating and fundraising, in November, we finally launched our project to determine the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in East African refugees currently living in San Diego.  At this point we have successfully completed the first two days of research, and tomorrow will be Day #3.

So far:

  • After collecting completed questionnaires on two dates in November at the Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego, we currently have over 100.
  • We still need about 50 more.
  • We hope to meet our sample goal tomorrow, Sunday, December 2nd, by collecting questionnaires at St Luke’s Episcopal Church and again at the community center.
  • We are using two sections of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ).  One asks about traumatic experiences, the other asks about symptoms, and we added a section for demographic questions.  All information gathered is kept confidential.
  • We are offering the HTQ in four different languages after meeting with success in getting it translated into Arabic, Somali and Swahili, as well as English.
  • We have tried to approach this with as much sensitivity as possible.  At each research event we have volunteers on hand to assist in the process, including mental health clinicians, and translators.
  • When we reach the minimum number of 150 completed questionnaires, team members from National University, professional number-crunchers, will tabulate the data.

To have so many refugees willing to participate is remarkable and what we have asked them to do, we don’t take lightly.  Sitting down and reading a questionnaire that lists nearly every sort of horrific event known to man is not an easy thing for anyone.  For refugees from conflict zones, many of the experiences listed are all too familiar and well-known.  Putting that on paper by answering YES or NO brings its own challenge.  And we feel honored when participants are willing to go through this process as we know it is not an easy one.

The therapist in me wishes we could sit together, going through the questions item by item, able to discuss anything that comes up along the way, processing whatever needed to be processed as part of the questionnaire-completion process.  But that isn’t the way research works.  “Processing” will have to wait for the launch of the trauma recovery program.

So, my fingers are crossed for tomorrow, not only for us to reach our desired sample size, but also that we manage to convey warmth and care while we are there.

Thank you so much to all who’ve supported this project.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

With gratitude,

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n.
Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.

Phase 1: What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

Update March 2013:
Here are the results.

For latest information about this project, visit our website »

December 2012:
We have completed the fourth and final day of research.  We exceeded our goal (of 150) and ended up with 212 refugees participating in the study.  Read more »

See past updates #2, #1.  Thank you for the support everyone.

Wanna get involved?  Get in touch with us at info@livingubuntu.org or (949) 891-2005.

Hi everyone,

What happens when someone was born and raised in a conflict zone, or witnessed acts of genocide? 

What happens when the violence was experienced firsthand, possibly even sexual assault?  What happens when part of life took place in a refugee camp?  What happens when a person has survived but lost countless numbers of family and friends?  What happens when “home” will never be home again?

The depth of shock and loss are way beyond what can be expressed in words, but what we know is that the struggle with these things doesn’t go away when a refugee moves to the U.S.

Trauma shatters a person and life as known before will never be the same again.  While some have the inner resiliency to recover without help, for many, that just isn’t the case and the suffering persists.

What are some of the PTSD symptoms for refugees?

  • Insomnia, nightmares, anxiety, depression, and trouble concentrating.
  • Substance abuse and domestic violence.
  • Quickness of anger and mistrust of others.  This adds to the difficulty in resolving conflicts within the community.

When traumatic experiences haven’t been resolved, employment, education, relationships, and physical health are significantly affected.

The individual suffers… the family suffers… and the entire community suffers….

Why are we doing this?
Click here to read more »

We know that 75% of the displaced children from Darfur living in refugee camps met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

What is the rate of PTSD in East African refugees living here in San Diego?  We don’t know, but we want to find out.

* * *

What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

Our plan

  1. Translate sections of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (a PTSD assessment tool) into Swahili, Arabic and Somali to make it easier for refugees to understand.
  2. Get 150 refugees from East Africa who currently live in San Diego to fill it out.
  3. Compile and analyze the data to determine rates of PTSD among this population.

This will help us move one step closer towards our long-term goal of launching an ongoing Trauma Recovery Program for refugees and immigrants in San Diego.

How you can help?

We want to give each of the 150 refugees a $15 Visa or MasterCard gift card as an incentive and to say “thanks”.  That means if a husband and wife both participate they will have an extra $30 to spend on something their family needs such as extra diapers or school supplies.

We need to raise funds to cover the cost of the gift cards.  150 refugees x $15 each = $2250.

  • $450 would provide gift cards for 30 refugees.  1/5th of our goal.
  • $150 would provide gift cards for 10 refugees.
  • $75 would provide gift cards for 5 refugees.
  • $30 would provide gift cards for 2 refugees.
  • $15 would provide a gift card for 1 refugee.

Can you help us with this?

Online fundraising for What is the rate of PTSD among refugees in San Diego?

The budget

  • 150 refugees x $15 gift cards  =  $2250
  • Banking fees (~3%)  =  $70
  • License for Harvard Trauma Questionnaire  =  $150
  • Marketing costs (flyers, printing etc.)  =  $100
  • Food & refreshments for day-of  =  $100
  • Total  =  $2670

The team

  • Chuol Tut, Executive Director of Southern Sudanese Center of San Diego
  • Barbara English, LMFT, CBT and Executive Director of Living Ubuntu
  • Jan Parker, LMFT, CBT, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, National University
  • Charles Tatum, PhD, Lead MA in Human Behavior, Department of Psychology, National University
  • Brenda L. Shook, PhD, Program Lead Faculty, Department of Psychology, National University

Living Ubuntu is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a focus on mind-body issues, specifically health and well-being, and the effects of stress, trauma and compassion fatigue.  We seek to increase awareness of the global and local impact of these issues, build a sense of community, and encourage living a more fully embodied life.  For more information, please visit http://livingubuntu.org.

National University is the second-largest, private, non-profit institution of higher learning in California.  For more information, please visit http://nu.edu.

Southern Sudanese Community Center of San Diego is a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides support for those who have immigrated from war torn South Sudan. Most of its staff is unpaid volunteers who donate their time to support refugee communities. http://ssccsd.org.

Sudanese American Youth Center San Diego is a non-profit organization based in the San Diego, California area focusing on mentoring Sudanese youth on how to become successful in the United States and still maintain the Sudanese cultural identity and value.  http://saycsd.org.

* * *

Thank you in advance for your support.  We are very grateful for your contribution and the refugee families will be too.

This research project is our first step toward launching a Trauma Recovery Program for Refugees and Immigrants in San Diego.

Thank you for helping us meet with success in this effort.

With gratitude,

Barbara English
Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
http://livingubuntu.org
(949) 891-2005

[Ubuntu] n.
Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human being.

Alexander Lowen on “protest”

In preparing for the upcoming Living Ubuntu Summer Body Group, Finding Your “No”: Healthy expression of negativity, protest and anger, I found the following passage in Depression and the Body about the role of protest in grieving.  It explains how this helps alleviate depression, and opens us to pleasure and love.

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