Examining post-conflict stressors in northern Sri Lanka: A qualitative study

Author/s: Fiona C. Thomas, Malasha D’souza, Olivia Magwood, Dusharani Thilakanathan, Viththiya Sukumar, Shannon Doherty, Giselle Dass, Tae Hart, Sambasivamoorthy Sivayokan, Kolitha Wickramage, Sivalingam Kirupakaran, Kelly McShane
Language: English
Publication Type: Scientific Report (Journal)(External)

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Forcibly displaced individuals typically encounter daily stressors, which can negatively impact mental health above and beyond direct exposure to war-related violence, trauma, and loss. Understanding the perspectives of war-affected communities regarding daily stressors can enhance the integration of mental health into local primary care. The aim of the current study was to explore how daily stressors are conceptualized in a post-conflict setting. Data collection was completed with 53 adult participants who were recruited from primary healthcare clinics in Northern Province, Sri Lanka. Individual interviews were conducted in Tamil, audio-recorded, translated from Tamil to English, and transcribed. Themes emerging from the data were organized into an analytical framework based on iterative coding and grounded in the daily stressors framework. Stressors were conceptualized as chronic stressors and systemic stressors. Findings indicate that chronic stressors, such as loss of property, permeate daily life and have a profound impact on psychological wellbeing. Interviewees additionally reported that systemic stressors stemmed from unresolved grief for missing family members and limited support from institutions. The results of the current study complement existing literature, suggesting the value of multipronged approaches which identify and address symptoms of complicated bereavement while simultaneously alleviating financial hardship. An understanding of stressors experienced by conflict-affected populations in times of chronic adversity can be informative for the design and implementation of culturally-tailored interventions.

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