Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Posts Tagged ‘bhutanese’

High suicide rate among Bhutanese refugees explained

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 1, 2015

suicide-messageA recent newspaper article from Iowa finally gives the most complete explanation for the high rate of suicide among Bhutanese refugees (Lhotshampa). These refugees have the highest suicide rate in the country (including refugees and every other group in the US), with 20 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people (this blog began addressing this issue five years ago, here-1, here-2, here-3, and here-4). Now, Parangkush Subedi, a health policy analyst from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), explains that much of this goes beyond past traumatic experiences, language, isolation, the great difficulty of adjusting to a new culture, and trying to find and maintain employment. Subedi says that the Bhutanese refugees are also deeply influenced by their culture. They believe they must also fight evil spirits, satisfy the lurking souls of the ancestors, and contend with ancient Hindu or Buddhist beliefs about fate — preordained karma. This belief tells them that their problems are a form of punishment; creating a heavy burden of guilt and hopelessness. All these factors combined lead to a large percentage of this refugee group having undiagnosed mental illnesses, chiefly severe depression. To address this issue Subedi urges Bhutanese refugee community members to set aside the stigma, talk about it and ask for help from a doctor, refugee coordinator, teacher or suicide hotline. Subedi asks that the larger Bhutanese refugee community increase its outreach to community members, and that community members listen without judging. He also recommends music, yoga, dance activities, and most importantly, sharing stories of hope so refugees who are struggling are aware that others in their position have succeeded. The article is found in the Des Moines Register:

Sorrow can feel overwhelming if you’ve lost someone, can’t find a job or pay your bills. But imagine also being uprooted from all that’s familiar, not speaking the language or understanding the customs, and being home-bound. Then, to round out the challenges, you have to fight evil spirits, satisfy the lurking souls of the ancestors, and contend with preordained karma…

…the U.N. High Commission for Refugees in 2007 began relocating [Bhutanese refugees] on a permanent basis. America has taken in 75,000 Bhutanese refugees since then. But with 20 self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people,they have the highest suicide rate in the country.

So suicide prevention commanded center stage at a national gathering in West Des Moines over the weekend of the Association of Bhutanese in America. A health policy analyst from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) urged community members to set aside the stigma, talk about it and ask for help.

More than one in five Bhutanese refugees nationwide is depressed, but according to Parangkush Subedi of ORR, they may not know what that means. Some develop physical symptoms, like panic attacks, stress or gastrointestinal disorders. But many are [also] deeply influenced by ancient Hindu or Buddhist beliefs about fate, and think that if they can’t find a job or make the rent, it’s a form of punishment. Add in traumatic life circumstances and, Subedi told the gathering in Nepali, “They feel they have no alternative to suicide.”…

Depression is the most common mental illness in America, affecting more than one in four adults. Certain triggering factors like job loss or family conflict can bring it on in most of us. And people of any background may abuse substances in response. But refugees have also been separated from the extended family networks they leaned on, and from their places of worship. Less able to navigate society than even their school-age children, parents see their roles shifting from heads of household to burdens. They feel shame and stigma. Their children, increasingly integrated into this new society, start to pull away. Other refugee populations have had similar experiences, but Subedi said the Bhutanese are particularly emotional, and many experienced trauma in the refugee camps. Those who suffered gender-based violence are especially vulnerable…

…in the end we’re all looking for the same basic things: Meaning, connectedness, a way to express ourselves. Forging community may be the best antidote to sorrow… Read more here

Posted in community/cultural orientation, cultural adjustment, employment/jobs for refugees, language, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, ORR | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top Posts of All Time

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2014

17 TOP HITSBelow is a list of the Top 17 Posts by number of viewers during the past five years.

1. Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program a bureaucratic failure
2. Refugees mugged in Oakland, again – this time IRC Nepali-Bhutanese refugees
3. The Refugee Syndrome: Exploring the psychology of Bhutanese refugees in NYC‏
4. Suicide prevention efforts needed in refugee resettlement program
5. State Department lifts restrictions on refugee resettlement to Detroit-area
6. Refugee Clients of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio, Inc. in Desperation
7. Preventing suicide in this multicultural society
8. Fargo Nepali-Bhutanese Refugees Face Unemployment, Eviction and Medical Bills
9. 15-year-old Eritrean refugee boy shot to death in St. Louis – International Institute says refugees had incorrect “perception” of safety
10. Refugees resettled to Buffalo’s West Side told to lock doors, not to wear gang colors, and to avoid violent confrontations
11. Upset Texas Pilgrim’s Pride employees complain about Burmese refugee workers
12. Perdue Farms Chicken Processing Plant Recruits Refugees From Greensboro NC
13. Nepali-Bhutanese refugee killed at abortion clinic in Philadelphia
14. German security guards caught abusing refugees
15. Karenni refugee children sent to vacation Bible school as part of their resettlement
16. World Relief Setting Up Operations in Oshkosh
17. USCRI’s Bowling Green International Center claims they do a great job, refugees disagree

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bhutanese immigrants in U.S. killing themselves at alarming rate

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 16, 2014

yellow_ribbonThe suicide rate among Nepali-Bhutanese refugees continues as a subject of concern. The suicide rate among Bhutanese here is 20.3 per 100,000 people, nearly double the rate of 12.4 per 100,000 for U.S. residents overall, and higher than the global suicide rate of 16 per 100,000. In six years, up to 55 Bhutanese immigrants have hanged themselves, using ropes or traditional scarves, with the last one occurring in Ohio in April. A former Bhutanese refugee in Portland, OR has made it his goal to support refugees from his country and reduce the number of suicides. An article in the Los Angeles Times tells more:

…In six years, up to 55 Bhutanese immigrants have hanged themselves, using ropes or traditional scarves, and [Som Subeti of Portland’s Lutheran Community Services] suspects the rate might be even higher. He has hounded federal agencies such as the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to investigate the trend. He sent emails, made telephone calls, even traveled to Washington to address officials…. Due in part to Subedi’s pressure, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study that found the problem to be endemic: The suicide rate among Bhutanese here is 20.3 per 100,000 people, nearly double the rate of 12.4 per 100,000 for U.S. residents overall and higher than the global suicide rate of 16 per 100,000… He wrote a column for the Oregonian newspaper, questioning the American dream. “I am a refugee from Bhutan,” he began, describing how he once encouraged friends in the camps in Nepal to hurry to the U.S., a place he called “close to heaven.” He wrote: “Now I see those newly arrived struggling; they question me about my ‘heaven.’ Some say they would return, if possible, to their dark refugee camps rather than face their desperate situations in Oregon. I have come to feel that ‘the American dream’ is dangerous, because people come here with great expectations. I have stopped calling the camps in Nepal.” Benefits for Bhutanese stop after a few months, often before the recipients have assimilated. Subedi disagrees with the CDC conclusion that a Bhutanese predisposition to suicide was brought to the U.S. from the refugee camps. “It’s like saying, ‘It isn’t our problem,'” he said. “America is all about immigrants. The U.S. has resources other nations don’t. But there isn’t the will to help refugees here.”… His compatriots continue to take their own lives, the last one in Ohio in April… Read more here

Posted in Lutheran Community Services Northwest, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, Oregon, ORR, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Important Information about a new Scam against Refugees‏

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 14, 2014


The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is warning about a new fraud scheme targeting refugees and other recent immigrants.  ORR urges refugees to be aware that there are several criminals seeking to take advantage of newly arrived refugees who may not realize the need to protect their personal information from thieves and other criminals.

The Bhutanese community of Minnesota reports a new variation on a common fraud scheme, with  several community members have received phone calls from people claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  The callers tell the person who answers that they owe money to the IRS, and if it is not paid immediately, the IRS will freeze their bank account, sue them, and take away their citizenship or other lawful status.

So far, at least three people have been contacted, and one unfortunately sent a money order for $3,000 to these criminals.

Additional information can be found here in a Listserve message from the ORR.

a new scam

Posted in Nepali Bhutanese, ORR, scams | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees preyed upon on Rochester NY streets

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 8, 2014


Refugees in Rochester NY say they are fed up with being targeted for crime on the city’s streets. Ironically, many of these refugees do not report the crimes to police. Reportedly, the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Nepali-Bhutanese and other refugees are being committed by young men from the African-American community. There is some debate whether these attacks are hate crimes or if the young men are targeting the victims due to their vulnerability as immigrants. An article in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle examines the issue:

Are the assaults, robberies and verbal abuse against local Bhutanese, Nepali and other refugees by young men from the African-American community hate crimes or crimes of economics and opportunity?

Perhaps a little of both.

Former Rochester police chief James Sheppard, who now works as a mentor to young African-American men whose lives have gone down paths of crime, downplayed tagging the crimes as “hate crimes” — defined generally as a criminal offense motivated by bias against race, religion, gender or other characteristics. He said the perpetrators are more often young black men who don’t feel good about themselves and who prey on the vulnerable for economic reasons…

Those who have been attacked say the abuse is often accompanied by comments such as “go back to your own country,” or “you don’t belong here.”…

Members of that community say they often do not call police because they either fear retaliation from the accused, they don’t think police will be effective at solving the problem, or they are simply more inclined just accept the abuse… Read more here

Posted in crime, dangerous neighborhoods, gangs, hate crimes, Nepali Bhutanese, police, Rochester, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More refugees work and pay taxes than not, making up for those unable

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2013

supportIts become popular in a certain part of the political spectrum in the US to scapegoat refugees for economic ills of the country. U.S. Citizens who are struggling economically can be both vulnerable to these false arguments as well as contributors to a climate of hostility to other vulnerable populations — people resettled to this country. A Nepali-Bhutanese man’s Op-ed in The Oregonian however makes the case for refugee resettlement by addressing the economic arguments:

Refugee resettlement is an integral part of the U.S. immigration program, helping to bring the world’s most vulnerable populations to safety in the US. But some wonder why the federal government welcomes more of these strangers when the U.S. already has so many homeless and unemployed citizens. Based on my experiences arriving from a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal, refugee resettlement need not be viewed as an issue of benefits to newcomers at the expense of old-timers. Usually, both the U.S. government and its newest arrivals end up winners.

First of all, refugees don’t come to U.S. for free or without going through a security check. When a refugee comes from refugee camps overseas or from a country torn by war or political unrest, he or she takes a travel loan from the U.S. government for airfare. Refugees have to pay that money back. I owed $1,300 for my one-way plane ticket. Within a year, I paid every penny back.

Refugee resettlement is an investment in the lives of refugees and in the development of this country. Annually, the U.S. resettles an average of 70,000 people, or roughly 1 percent of the total world refugee population. Since 1975, more than three million refugees have been resettled into the U.S., according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). That’s an enormous addition to the tax base. Even though refugees have to wait until they are U.S. citizens to receive certain benefits, they start paying taxes upon arrival…

…more refugees work and pay taxes than not, making up for those who are unable to…

…Initially, limited English skills lead most refugees to work entry level jobs that average Americans would rather not do. Big corporations like Marriott and Hilton count on refugees coming here to fill a legal workforce. Those same corporations donated to both Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates during the 2012 general election to push for the admission of more legal workers. These hard-working refugees stay at work longer than American co-workers. This helps American employers save some money on training and hiring costs. More seriously, refugees developed a burning desire to work while being banned from doing so in home and camp countries… Read more here

Posted in economic self-sufficiency, employment/jobs for refugees, legislation, Nepali Bhutanese, Oregon | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Bhutanese refugees resettled to U.S. and undiagnosed mental illness

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 24, 2013


A federal report conducted by CDC and in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center suggests that Bhutanese refugees who have resettled in the U.S. could have a high burden of undiagnosed mental illness. This could be associated with the higher rate of suicide noted in the population. The report recommends more mental health services for refugees from Bhutan. An article in the Arizona Daily examines the report:

A federal report is recommending more mental health services for refugees from Bhutan, who have a higher than average rate of suicide…

In collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey of randomly selected Bhutanese refugees in four U.S. states with large populations of resettled refugees to identify risk factors that might be associated with ideas of suicide. The four states were Arizona, Georgia, New York, and Texas.

The survey findings suggest that Bhutanese refugees who have resettled in the U.S. could have a high burden of undiagnosed mental illness.

The study says mental-health services should be considered one of the priorities in the service package for refugees arriving in the United States… Read more here

See a post from April about the Nepali-Bhutanese refugee suicide rate.

Posted in mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, suicide | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Update on resettlement situation in Manchester

Posted by Christopher Coen on May 21, 2013


Refugee resettlement has been greatly reduced in Manchester, New Hampshire since the mayor’s battle with the local resettlement agency and the State Department. Now, however, the International Institute will resettle about 200 refugees this fiscal year (through September), with half being placed in the nearby town of Nashua instead of Manchester. The mayor is still talking about taking a breather by the reduction in new refugee resettlement but he doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help refugees already resettled in Manchester, so how will this reduction help get every refugee employeed before the next refugees arrive, as he claims he wants? An Associated Press article has the story:

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — …While many Bhutanese have transitioned well to life in U.S. — and they are all better off than they were in refugee camps — many, especially those older than 40, are struggling, Niroula said.

“Bhutanese are facing lot of challenges, because they are jobless,” he said…

…In November 2011, Mayor Ted Gatsas, a Republican then newly elected to his second term, drew national attention after asking the State Department to stop resettling refugees to Manchester. In a recent interview, he said he still believes the city could benefit from break in their arrival.

“We’ve got refugees in this community that don’t know the language, don’t have a job, and what I’ve been saying is let us catch our breath. Let us get these people into working society, so they’re good examples of the city of Manchester,” he said. “You can’t do that by bringing 300 more refugees on top of that.”

Dr. Jacqueline Verville, director of the Holy Cross Family Resource Center, which provides English classes and other services, said her organization is far from being maxed out, adding that Holy Cross is only one of many groups providing similar services. She said she believed there should be no restrictions on new arrivals but acknowledged many immigrants do struggle…

…The Manchester task force collected figures in 2010 showing 85 percent of refugees became taxpayers within a year. That’s not indicative of full employment, as many refugees find short-term or seasonal work, but permanent positions are harder to come by…

…New refugees began arriving again last October, and [Carolyn Benedict-Drew, president and CEO of the International Institute of New England] said the institute will place close to 200 during the current fiscal year, which ends in September.

To take some of the pressure off Manchester, close to 50 will be resettled in nearby Nashua… Read more here

Posted in International Institute of New Hampshire, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Nepali Bhutanese, New Hampshire | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Columbus apartment complex where resettlement agencies placed refugees riddled with problems

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 23, 2013


An apartment complex in Columbus where refugee resettlement agencies placed refugees because of low rental rates is riddled with 63 code violations. A Nepali-Bhutanese refugee who lives in a unit with his family says his unit was plagued with bedbugs last year and said he was worried about his family’s safety. Another Nepali-Bhutanese refugee said the staircases are broken and lights don’t work. Community Refugee and Immigration Services and World Relief Columbus stopped placing refugees in the complex after last year’s fire publicity, but have not evacuated the other refugees to better housing despite the extensive code violations. The units are poorly maintained, have bedbugs and roaches, leaky and defective plumbing and electrical problems, according to an inspection report. I think this case case shows the wisdom of placing refugees only according to rental unit prices while ignoring basic safety, repair and habitability issues which, by the way, are violations of the State Department refugee contracts. Will the State Department be taking any action against its refugee contractors in Columbus? I’ll believe it when I see it. An article in The Columbus Dispatch has the details of this story:

Columbus prosecutors say that a North Side apartment complex that rents to scores of refugees is riddled with code violations that owners have ignored for months.

Prosecutors filed a complaint yesterday with Franklin County Environmental Court against Summit Park Apartments. The complaint says a code-enforcement inspector has found 63 violations since September.

The inspection report said multiple units were poorly maintained, had bedbugs and roaches, leaky and defective plumbing and electrical problems…

In three inspections since November, building inspectors found wooden balconies that had deteriorated to the point that they were unsafe. The inspections also determined that concrete and steel balconies there must be evaluated and repaired…

In August, families from Bhutan, Somalia and other countries were displaced after fire ravaged one of the buildings, at 4349 Walford St. The fire started in a fenced-in storage area that had been filled with furniture.

Fire investigators said it was arson. At least two refugee agencies, , have not placed anyone at the complex since then.

They still had code violations that hadn’t got taken care of that got worse after the fire,” said Kay Lipovsky, office manager for World Relief Columbus.

Agencies place refugees at complexes such as Summit Park because rents are inexpensive, she said.

One resident, Yam Subba, a Bhutanese Nepali refugee who lives in a unit with his wife, their 2-year-old daughter and his mother, said his unit was plagued with bedbugs last year. Subba, 28, said he was worried about his family’s safety.

Another Bhutanese Nepali refugee, Moti Rai, who lives in a unit with his father, said the staircases are broken and lights don’t work. Still, Rai, 27, said he lived in a small hut in a refugee camp in Bhutan. “I think this is better than that.”… Read more here

Posted in apartment building fires, bed bugs, Columbus, Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS), housing, housing, substandard, Nepali Bhutanese, safety, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Unemployment, depression, lack of family ties & suicide among Bhutanese refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 14, 2013


At least 25 Bhutanese refugees have committed suicide in the U.S. since the group began to resettle here in 2008. This blog reported on the problem when a few reports began to show up in the media and covered the stories as they occurred (see cases in Pittsburgh, Nashville, Buffalo and Phoenix). Refugee resettlement agencies have been for the most part silent about the phenomena. Risk factors include depression, not being the family’s provider, feelings of limited social support, having family conflict after resettlement, and having been resettled here less than a year ago. An article in The Atlantic magazine now shines a brighter light on this issue:

…Mitra Mishra killed himself. Subedi, a case manager for Bhutanese refugees at Interfaith Works Center for New Americans in Syracuse, NY, was with the 20-year-old Mishra at Schiller Park the evening of July 3, 2010.

“We played soccer just the previous day until 6 p.m. and he was totally fine,” Subedi said of Mishra, who was not a client of the center. “He played with me and I drove him back to his home. There wasn’t any indication. Nothing was wrong.”

On Independence Day, early morning walkers found Mishra’s body hanging from a tree at the soccer field.

…Mishra’s death is part of a troubling pattern among Bhutanese refugees resettled in the U.S. In August of 2010, about a month after Mishra’s death, Dan Maya Gurung committed suicide in Buffalo, according to the Bhutan News Service. Gurung was in her late 30s and had been in the country just two weeks. The next month, Nirmala Niroula, 35, also living in Buffalo, hung herself in her apartment. Niroula had moved to the U.S. three months earlier. That December, 20-year-old Menuka Poudel was found dead in her Phoenix apartment, hanging from a noose fashioned from the shawl Bhutanese women wear with their traditional clothing. She had been in the States just two months.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) began to notice a pattern. Ultimately, 16 suicides were confirmed among U.S. resident Bhutanese refugees as of February 2012…

…The rate of depression among the Bhutanese surveyed was 21 percent, nearly three times that of the general U.S. population (6.7 percent). In addition to depression, risk factors for suicide included not being the family’s provider, feelings of limited social support, and having family conflict after resettlement. Most of the suicides were within a year of resettlement to the U.S. and, in all cases, the victims hanged themselves…

…the problem is not over just because the study period has ended. Nine more suicides have been reported to ORR since. The numbers may actually be higher, says Som Nath Subedi, the Portland caseworker. He says the community is reluctant to discuss suicides out of fear of how the news might affect resettlement, which continues today… Read more here

Posted in alienation-isolation, CDC, Hindu, mental health, Nepali Bhutanese, ORR, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »