Explanatory models of mental health : a qualitative study among East-African migrants and Belgian healthcare professionals
Research indicates a significant prevalence of mental health issues among migrants in Europe, because they are confronted with various risk factors throughout their migration journey. Despite these mental health challenges, migrants are underserved in mental healthcare services in the countries of destination due to, amongst other factors, their different understanding of mental health with the dominant healthcare system. Recognizing the influence of cultural differences on mental health perceptions is essential to enhance mental healthcare for migrants since it leads to variations in causal attributions, health-seeking behaviour, and treatment practices. Therefore, this dissertation seeks to explore the understanding of mental health among East-African migrants in Belgium, employing the anthropological concept of ‘explanatory models’. Additionally, it examines how healthcare professionals perceive these explanatory models, including potential differences compared to their own views, as well as the impact of these perceptions on the professionals’ healthcare practices. The study is based on in-depth interviews conducted with first-generation East-African migrants and healthcare professionals working with African communities. Results show that the explanatory models of mental health significantly influence the healthcare-seeking behaviour of East-African migrants. This study reveals the influence of migration and integration processes on the potential change of these models over time: participants who become more familiar with the dominant view on mental health, tend to align their own understanding of mental health more closely with that view. Secondly, results illustrate that the practices of healthcare professionals are influenced by their own explanatory models and the disparities they encounter with the explanatory models of their migrant patients.The findings demonstrate that, to engage with and support East-African migrants effectively, healthcare professionals should gain an understanding of how these individuals perceive mental health. These insights could form the basis for enhancing mental healthcare for migrants in Belgium, with a strong emphasis on considering both migrant and professional explanatory models. However, the study findings suggest that focusing solely on explanatory models in therapeutic interactions may not be sufficient to improve healthcare services. A holistic healthcare approach is necessary. Beyond adaptations of the healthcare system, the results show that enhancing the mental health of migrants also requires consideration of the broader socio-political and integration-related context. In this particular context, the underlying causes of mental health issues among migrants became apparent, particularly within the Belgian reception and integration system. The findings show how the organization of this system increased structural social exclusion. In light of the research findings and existing literature, this dissertation presents future research suggestions and concrete recommendations for policy and practice in addressing the multifaceted challenge of improving migrants' mental health.
Antwerpen : Universiteit Antwerpen , 2024
223 p.
Supervisor: Van de Velde, Sarah [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Van Praag, Lore [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Nöstlinger, Christiana [Supervisor]
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Creation 31.01.2024
Last edited 17.06.2024
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