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Investigating the mental health needs of Zimbabwean refugees in Durban, South Africa : a thematic analysis.

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This study endeavoured to investigate the mental health needs of refugees to help establish the real cause of prevailing problems they experience in their host country, South Africa, so that deficits, gaps and needs in current intervention programs and services can be addressed to aid this population. The research questions aimed to investigate the psychological, emotional, social and environmental difficulties that refugees face on a daily basis which could contribute to their mental health needs. How refugees manage these difficulties was also investigated. A qualitative research design was used, with Braun and Clarke’s six-phased thematic analysis process used as the methodology of choice. Ten refugees from Zimbabwe living in Durban, South Africa, were purposively selected and semi-structured interviews were conducted to provide the required data. Thematic analysis was conducted and resulted in the identification of five themes: inaccessibility, basic needs, being a foreigner, emotional well-being, and internal and external coping strategies. The findings of this study show that refugees living in Durban present with mental health needs as they encounter various difficulties across the psychological, emotional, social and environmental domains. The primary difficulties identified by the refugees were difficulty with accessing employment and maintaining a secure income, as well as difficulty being a foreigner and not being accepted by the locals in Durban. The primary coping strategies identified by the refugees with these difficulties were their spiritual faith and social support. Limitations to the study included minimal time that the researchers could have with the refugees as only one interview could be conducted with each participant, and due to the sensitive experiences refugees might encounter, the possibility that some participants only share general and superficial concerns is possible.


Masters of Social Science in Counselling Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2017.