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Suicide rate high in US Bhutanese refugee communities

Posted by Ann Corcoran on January 3, 2013

I told you about Director Eskinder Negash’s year-end review for the Office of Refugee Resettlement here and here recently.  There was one paragraph in his report that I noted to follow up on.  It was this:

ORR has been working with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to try to understand what is triggering suicides in Bhutanese refugee communities, undertaking an Epi-Aid study focusing on eleven communities in four states: (1) Arizona (Phoenix and Tucson), (2) Georgia (Atlanta Metropolitan Area, including Atlanta, Clarkston, Decatur, and Stone Mountain), (3) New York (Buffalo, and Syracuse) and (4) Texas (Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston). Results of the study were shared with ORR in October, and ORR is following up on CDC recommendations and next steps.

Here is the report from the CDC dated October 2012.  Sixteen newly resettled Bhutanese/Nepali refugees killed themselves in a three year period alarming the social engineers at the ORR in Washington DC, and within a year of getting to the US.   Researchers had data on 14 of those and interviewed family members to try to ascertain why they killed themselves (13 by hanging).  The reasons were in order of importance:  language barriers, worry about family back home, separation from family, and difficulty in maintaining cultural and religious traditions.

You will have to go to the report for the CDC’s recommendations which include more mental health screening for refugees, building support in communities among families etc, and expanding mental health facilities for refugees.

Just a reminder to readers that there was much angst and consternation in the refugee camps in Nepal where these refugees had lived for going on two decades about coming to the US in the first place.  We wrote about it on several occasions as the great emptying of camps began in 2007.  We reported last month that in the ensuing years we have resettled over 60,000 Bhutanese/Nepali people, so that meatpackers would have some more good docile workers, the contractors could get your taxpayer dollars, the Dems could get more voters and Americans could feel all warm and fuzzy about giving them this opportunity (I just threw that last part in there because I’m so cynical now!).

And, just so you know, some Bhutanese are doing well. Here is one glowing report from Pittsburgh, PA.   But, oops! it is the location of one of the suicides as we reported here in 2010 (Sheesh, I googled Pittsburgh Bhutanese and my own post came up!).

3 Responses to “Suicide rate high in US Bhutanese refugee communities”

  1. […] have already seen some of the psychological impact with the high suicide rate of Bhutanese here in the […]


  2. Ann- I have attended the recent meting in Atlanta with CDC and the Georgia Refugee Stakeholders Council which I am member of. The CDC and the state trained a community leader Birendra Dhakal to train others in recognizing the signs of mental health issues. The suicide rate amongst the Bhutanese is around 20/100,000, twice that of others but it is the same rate as in the camps. Our 4200+ Bhutanese are for the most part doing ok, although the uneducated work in poultry plants some up to two hours away. There has been one suicide in Atlanta. We believe 30+ families have bough t homes. The only arrests in the Clarkston community have been for driving license violation and drinking. As I understand many in Pittsburgh are working in manufacturing jobs.

    By the way you mentioned in the past that the Bhutanese are Buddhist Nepalis believe. While Bhutan is by law a Buddhist country, around 70% of the refugees are Hindu and the rest are Christian, Buddhist and Kirat. There is a large Christian population here as there have been quite a few conversions, however there are families with split religions as well as Christians who celebrate Hindu festivals as well.

    Their situation was strictly based on ethnicity and not religions. The refugees here help each other and as I understand it, they all celebrated each others holidays in the camps.


    • Ann Corcoran said

      I’m just reporting the news. The ORR apparently was worried enough about suicides to commission a report. That is the news. I don’t care if they are Christians, Hindus or Buddhists just so they don’t want to run our government with their laws (as the Muslims do!).


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